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–”
BLUE JAYS: “FIVE DOLLARS!”
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.)