It’s time for better beer: An open letter to Blue Jays CEO Mark Shapiro

Dear Mr. Shapiro,

Your promise of discount beer at the Rogers Centre today was a nice gesture, but it is not going to cut it. It is time to offer Toronto Blue Jays fans locally-made, independently-owned beer at the Rogers Centre.

Today you offered up the idea of $5 beer at the Rogers Centre and, while that sounds great, and is already grabbing you the headlines you probably hoped it would, you don’t need to be a cynical basement-dwelling, impossibly handsome beer blogger to see what this transparent ploy really is. You have in the past given lip service “improving the fan experience” at Jays games and you even seemed to publicly flirt with the idea of bringing in craft beer, as they did in Cleveland when you were there. I fear that you will now use $5 dollar beer to show that “you listened” and will claim the beer has improved. Reports are that the $5 beer will include 355ml cans of Bud and Bud Light so I wanted to clarify to you that selling the same shit at a lower price point in a smaller format is not actually an improvement. Indeed, it seems to me this might be the solution that Rogers and AB InBev came up with together to “improve” the beer situation at games in hopes that the conversation would go away:

FANS: “We want better beer!”
BLUE JAYS: “This small beer is now only five dollars! Isn’t that better?”
FANS: “It’s the same be–”

I want to let you know that this conversation isn’t going to go away. (For the record though, I’m loving the dollar hot dog days. Definitely do that shit, please).

And it isn’t just me that wants this, I assure you.

Actual craft beer at Jays’ game would go a long way toward improving the fan experience to a level that is currently experienced literally everywhere else in baseball: The Toronto Blue Jays are the only team in major league baseball who have yet to offer fans a significant, readily available craft beer experience.

When it comes to this part of the overall product for which you are ultimately responsible for, you are literally losing to all 29 of your competitors—but not to worry. This part is an easy fix. Forget for a second the unceasing competition to find the right mix of players on the field, coaches in the clubhouse, salary caps, your pitching woes, scouting, etc. Here is a thing you can do better, right now, that will improve the Blue Jays “product.” Give us better fucking beer.

Fans are increasingly aware that the Blue Jays enjoy a “partnership” with AB InBev, and we are also aware that that company has in recent years acquired formerly craft brands like Chicago’s Goose Island and Toronto’s Mill Street Brewery; however, these “craft” options merely provide us with the illusion of choice and don’t actually allow fans the ability to support local, independent brewers making interesting and full flavoured beers in our own province. And increasingly, that’s what sports fans actually want to drink when they take in a game. There are craft options at Toronto FC games. There’s craft beer at Toronto Rock and Toronto Wolfpack games. Hell, your minor league affiliate Bisons down the road in Buffalo host craft beer festivals that take place right on their field. You want to stay competitive among local sporting events and improve the fan experience? Five dollar Budweiser hidden in one section per level ain’t gonna cut it these days.

Ontarians drink craft beer. It’s the fastest growing category at the LCBO and craft beer’s market share has grown from 3% just a few years ago to around 10%. We now support something like 270 craft breweries in this province. You still support zero (or…one, technically, if you plan to continue to sell Hockley Valley Dark at one vendor).

Furthermore, there is most certainly a market for craft beer among American fans who travel to Toronto to watch a game and who have come to expect local options at the ball park. It is disappointing for them, and frankly embarrassing to us, when the best we have to offer is the same lineup of industrial lagers that is available virtually everywhere in the world. People who come to this city for a baseball game ought to experience Toronto — and its beer.

Canada’s best-selling independently-owner pilsner is made at Steam Whistle, literally across the street from where your team plays ball. You could build a bridge and pipe the stuff over. There is a baseball-themed brewery, called Left Field Brewery, eight kilometres from Blue Jays’ home plate where many Jays fans already prefer to take in games thanks to the draw of pairing something like a locally made Laser Show Double IPA with a game.  I’d welcome the chance to drink a Canuck Pale Ale from Etobicoke’s Great Lakes Brewery with my dollar hot dog, or maybe have an Amsterdam Brewery Boneshaker with my pretzel (their brewery is 700 metres from your facility, by the way).

Hell why not a Jelly King, a Nutcracker Porter, an Armed N’ Citra, a Mango Fett, or even a Cock Puncher??

In April of last year, speaking about improvements to the fan experience, you noted: “I think it’ll be hopefully by the end of the season we’ll have an announcement of what we’re doing, but I trust and believe that it’s going to happen soon.”

I get that launching extensive changes to the Jays’ fan experience might require flexible timelines, but I’d like to suggest you might show fans you’re serious about theses changes this year, put your money where your mouth is, and put some decent beer – not $5 Budweiser — where our mouths are, please.

On behalf of Blue Jays fans who like good beer,


(For fans that are reading this who feel the same, I’ve started a formal petition in hopes that might get Mr. Shapiro’s attention. Go sign it here.)

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

19 thoughts on “It’s time for better beer: An open letter to Blue Jays CEO Mark Shapiro

  1. I actually received a call yesterday to the brewery asking if I was interested in entertaining customers in a new lounge Blue Jays have behind home plate. My response was “Do you serve craft beer there?”. Of course the response was no. How counterintuitive would it be for a craft brewery to use their lounge to shmooze if they only sold marco? It’s like working for Dominos and taking your clients to Pizza Hut. Anyway, it was a bizarre conversation.

  2. Ben, I think your missing the point, it’s pretty clear the Jays don’t care about people who like good beer (or food for that matter.)

    Yes, as a long time fan it’s disappointing they are at best paying lip service to the craft beer fan – but hey they must know something about their market – I bet the drunks up in the 500’s (and 100’s for that matter) spend more per seat then the guy having one or two decent pints while enjoying the game with his kids (that kind of explains why they discontinued the Jr Jays’ early afternoon Saturday games that they had for years, and eventually relaunched them to the occasional Sunday.)

    I know the number of games I’ve attended have steadily dropped over the past couple of years because of their choices – I’d rather spend my time and money for a local product (And I don’t think I’m alone if you look at the number of opening day tickets still available on ticketmaster.)

  3. Great article. I love craft beer and I would love to have one at the home opener this year.
    I did not realize how many other stadiums were already offering craft beer alternatives.

  4. All beer tastes gross from a plastic cup, so I’m quite happy to watch baseball games and not drink any beer, craft or otherwise.

    Or did they unban cans at the Rogers Centre?

    Either way, I drank a Mill Street West Coast Style IPA from the can there once. It brought me little joy. And it’s a beer I normally enjoy.

    Look, I’m all for Ontario craft breweries selling more beer and for people having better options. But, call me fussy, I just don’t think that the Rogers Centre is a great environment for enjoying craft beer. But to each her own.

    Here is how I see this “Dugout Deal” going down. I am a Bud Light drinker (hypothetically) and I have two options.

    1) $5 for a 355 ml can
    2) $10 for a 473 ml can

    I can get two 355 ml cans, which is 33% more beer, for the same price as a single 473 ml can. So why even offer the larger side? No one would buy it. They would order two of the smaller size. Why not just discount the $473 cans equivalently to $6.69? It would amount to the same thing and be easier from an ordering and inventory perspective.

    I know it’s because “Lookit! $5 beer!” makes for a better sound bite. But when will people in power realize that Ontario beer drinkers are more sophisticated than that, and that they can not be so easily swayed by the promise of cheap beer lol I’m kidding there are a tonne of people in this province who that is all they care about. This will excite them.

    PS. I want to have one of “theses” “Douple” IPAs at a “ninor” league game that you speak of. Sounds delicious. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist. I am an a-hole.)

    1. Make that “Why not just discount the 473 ml cans equivalently to $6.69?”

      It seems Ben isn’t the only one badly in need of a proofreader.

  5. Mr.Shapiro understands what the majority of people want. You said it yourself , the lcbo sells 10% craft. How many of that 10% go to Jay’s games? You should stop beer bashing and criticizing people who probably dont enjoy craft beer (90%) it doesn’t become you and your opinion is not reality.

  6. Go tigers and the craft beer they support in Detroit. I even think Amsterdam is supported in that ballpark.

    1. That’s New Amsterdam vodka. I thought it meant the Toronto brewery when I was there, too.

      They do have stuff Atwater, Bell’s, Arbor, New Holland, etc. there, though. It was the first place I had Two-Hearted Ale and it pretty much made me want to drink nothing but craft beer from then on.

      1. It’s also confusing because the Amsterdam area is in section 416 and is called the Amsterdam 416 lounge or something. But yeah, vodka, not Boneshaker.

  7. We go to 4 – 6 games a year. I rarely buy beer because of the cost. $12 for a tall boy is nonsense. We do buy food though. $5 bud light? Yea, I will buy one, sorry craft brewers. I have noticed that a lot of people are constantly buying $12 beer. They must be loaded in cash. We go to enjoy the game and drinking beer isn’t a big deal to us. I am a homebrewer so $12 cans of beer is against my ” homebrewers code “. $5 beer? Maybe. Yes, Ben, $5 Craft beer would be great.

  8. You’re running out of “fighting for the little guy” ideas. 90% of fans at a Blue Jay game couldn’t give a fuck about craft beer.

  9. I don ‘t get to many sporting venues outside of Toronto. I’ve been to the Senators rink in the early 2000s, Montreal’s rink in the mid 2000s and the Bisons field about 3-4 years ago as part of Left Field’s road trip. I don’t recall anything remarkable about the Ottawa or Montreal experiences.

    Buffalo however… Even though I didn’t care about the doubleheader of baseball, I had a fun time in Buffalo. Happy hour ran for 1.5 hours ahead of the game, craft beer, actual craft beer was readily available and not tucked away out of sight and on sale during happy hour (and not stupid expensive the rest of the time) plus food. I moved all round the stadium for different views. It was a lovely experience. I’m disappointed that it appears Left Field has stopped doing the field trip the last few years. 😦

    Hey Blue Jays, your AAA team outclasses you big time!

Join the conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s