Craft Beer Comes to NASCAR

Dale's Pale Ale will sponsor the number 88 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Credit: Courtesy Oskar Blues Brewery

Oskar Blues Brewery, the brewpub responsible for introducing craft beer packaged in cans, has announced a multi-year partnership with NASCAR team JR Motorsports, which is owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr., his sister, and Rick Hendrick.

Oskar Blues’ original canned brew, the hoppy Dale’s Pale Ale, will be the main sponsor of JR Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet in three NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS) races in the 2016–2017 seasons. Previously, Budweiser and Busch were title sponsors of the race series and the two brands continue to sponsor cars. But in 2013, the craft scene began to creep in when Dale's Pale Ale became the first craft beer to achieve NASCAR sponsorship status. Now they are the first to gain primary sponsor status.

“It makes sense,” Chad Melis, Marketing Director at Oskar Blues Brewery. “There is a natural fit between American-made beer in a can and NASCAR fans. They're people we relate to.” That means that Oskar Blues doesn’t believe that craft brews should ever feel exclusive. “Being accessible and keeping it grassroots is what we are. Acting pretentious is never anything you’ll see within our brand and our craft.”

Both JR Motorsports and Oskar Blues have those grassroots at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina. The brewery has claimed a home at the track previously, hosting a tent that provides tastings and beers you can find at their Longmont, Colorado, and Brevard, North Carolina, breweries. “When the company expanded to North Carolina, we were already working with late-model racing in Colorado and had two dirt track sprint cars. Speed is in our blood,” says Melis. "So having a brewery in North Carolina made our connection with NASCAR and JR Motorsports a natural fit.”

But when you’re a craft brewery going up against the goliath commercial beer sponsors, it’s obvious that there’s more to it than just a connection to the track. “Yeah, there is definitely a competitive nature here at Oskar Blues.”

The No. 88 Dale's Pale Ale Chevrolet will make its first appearance on August 19 at Bristol Motor Speedway with driver Regan Smith. The remaining two race dates will be announced at a later date. Dale's Pale Ale will also be featured on (but not the primary sponsor for) the No. 1 Chevrolet with driver Elliott Sadler for the 2016 season.