Riverdogs throw curveballs with beershakes, peanut butter burgers

Firefly moonshine and some ice cream make a cool summer ballpark treat.

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - Charleston's boys of summer will soon be back on the diamond. The Riverdogs kick off their home season April 11, but the players won't be the only new lineup at the Joe.

While the song of baseball rattles off peanuts, popcorn and Cracker Jacks, that's just the beginning for Riverdogs fans. And park officials are stepping up their game even more this year.

"We felt the baseball and stadiums in general missed the boat when it comes to offering these out-of-the-box type menu items," said John Shoemaker, the 14-year veteran food and beverage manager at the park.

For more than a decade, Shoemaker has been blending, grilling, and brainstorming some of the most tasty, tantalizing and downright unique menu items in the game.

Shoe, as he's known around the park, and his staff spend much of the off season dreaming up and testing the Joe's signature dishes. Some of the offering are straight out of left field, including the pickle dog, the Homewrecker and the foot-long pig on a stick.

"We're able to go into our test kitchen, so to speak," Shoemaker said. "We laugh at each other, throw things at each other and some of them stick to the wall."

What's in the starting line-up this season? There are four rookie items sure to be a home run on those warm summer nights: pork rinds and cracklings, a brand new burger and two frozen cocktails, Firefly moonshine margaritas and the beer milkshake, which is already a big hit across the country.

"This is the biggest food item or beverage item that's taken off. It's gone viral. It's been on and a couple baseball blogs," Shoemaker said.

The Riverdogs are rolling out three flavors of these soon-to-be summer staples - these beershakes - Sweetwater 420 strawberry, Guinness caramel, and Palmetto Expresso porter.

So how are they made?

"Eight ounces of beer straight in the blender. The next step is ice cream, six ounces. Add in a tablespoon or so of malted milk and some syrup and presto, you're on your way to a deliciously sweet, refreshing, beer-enhanced beverage," Shoemaker said.

And why not something to snack on while savoring the frothy frappe?

Check out the peanut butter and red pepper jelly jalapeno bacon cheeseburger. It's a mouthful in more ways than one.

Start with a quarter-pound patty, add the jalapeno bacon. Then, like Shoe says, get a little weird.

"The sweetness of the peanut butter and the heat from the red pepper jelly gives it just the right consistency of sweet and heat,"Shoemaker said.

So next time you're at the park and see a curveball on the menu, give it a shot. Like Shoe says, you don't know until you try.

"Just as long as they try it," Shoemaker said. "Give us chance."

Fans can give the new menu items a chance on April 11.

Shoemaker said he's excited for opening day and is already working on some new items for next year.