Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ballpark Beer: The Overpriced Liquid That Binds Us


By
Image courtesy of Flickr user anukul
There's nothing better on earth than enjoying an ice cold beer at the ballpark and watching your favourite team. Absolutely nothing.

Okay, maybe the birth of your first child rivals that feeling, but can you get drunk off it?

Baseball and beer go hand in hand like Charlie Sheen and narcotics, and it got me thinking about the beer situation for us Blue Jays fans at the Rogers Centre.

Rob Iracane at Big League Stew sifted through the best suds around the majors and came up with the 10 Best Beers at Big League Ballparks. I have to say, I was a little disenchanted about the beer selections at the Rogers Centre when reading about all these tasty microbrews.

The lineup of beers available to Blue Jays fans pales in comparison to their counterparts around the major leagues. Last time I checked, the only beers available at the Rogers Centre are your regular run of the mill domestics: Budweiser, Bud Light, Bud Light Lime, and Keith's.

There's an easy way to remedy the beer situation at the Rogers Centre; bring in those homegrown microbrews that not only the locals will enjoy, but that visitors from out of town can experiment with.

Image courtesy of TheDieLine.com
The natural decision would be to serve a pilsner such as Steam Whistle at the Rogers Centre. After all, the brewery is right across the street. Just wheel the kegs across Bremner and pass the transportation costs onto the customers. Everybody wins!

Image courtesy of Yelp.ca
Another option that was championed on Twitter was bringing in beer from another critically acclaimed local brewery, the Mill Street Brewery.

They're another fine choice and unlike Steam Whistle, Mill Street has a bevvy of draught beers to choose from. Mill Street has 10 different draught beers at their disposal, and they're also within stumbling distance of the dome.

From what I understand, there's a pretty decent selection of bottled beer in The Roundhouse at the Rogers Centre, but as far as I'm concerned ... it's draught beer or bust when you're at a baseball game. 

My beef is not only about the lack of selection of beers at the Rogers Centre, but the method in which it is delivered as well.

Up until late last season, customers who purchased tall cans weren't even allowed to drink the beer out of the cans themselves. Vendors had to pour them into plastic cups, which made getting a beer take even longer.

I'm not exactly sure what the reasoning was behind not handing over cans in the first place. Heaven forbid a game go awry and fans start trying to cut themselves with aluminum cans to reprieve themselves from the pain.

If you've ever been to a Home Opener or even just a weekend game, you'll agree that the wait times at the beer stands are absolutely ridiculous. In some cases, you're waiting in line multiple innings just to get your hands on an ice cold beer.

That's where something like the Bottoms Up Draft Beer Dispenser would be ideal because most of time spent in line is waiting for the beer to be poured. This machine can chug out 56 pints in one minute. Two hands, no waiting.



I realize the cost to install these machines would be residual and would eventually be passed down on to the customer. However, I don't mind paying a few bucks more if I can get a beer and be back in my seat in between innings.

The Bottoms Up Beer Dispenser has already been rolled out at Fenway Park, and most recently it made it's entry into Canada during the Labatt Brier in London. Perhaps this will open the door for larger venues in Canada to test it out.

This may just be me trying to romanticize an experience at the Rogers Centre, but I think the key to making the food and beverage renowned around the league is to have some sort of signature item.

Food is a different story altogether, but having a signature beer available at the Blue Jays games will not only will it benefit that particular brewer, but the stadium as well. It gives the Rogers Centre more of a personality rather than it's reputation which is synonymous with the cold, concrete exterior of the building.

Bottom line, if I'm going to be paying 11 dollars for a tall can of beer at a Blue Jays game, I think there should be a better selection at our disposal than just the usual domestics.  And please let me have it in a timely fashion so I can get back to the game.

Is that too much to ask?

16 comments:

  1. I think the reason they don't give away cans is because it's harder to throw a plastic cup on the field than an empty can.

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  2. @w3leong - And, plastic cups do less damage - not only to the field, but to other fans. I've had full cups accidentally fall on me from the section directly above me, and they're just messy - I wouldn't want a full can accidentally (or otherwise) dropped to hit me (or the guys in the bullpen) from that distance.

    Kudos, Ian. If Bright House Field in Clearwater - a minor league park! - can have a stand devoted to microbrew draughts, the Rogers Centre could probably figure out a way to have more than just the boring domestics. Lame!

    I'm dreading opening night this year. Not that I desperately *need* beer to enjoy the game, but last year, I waited in line for nearly 2 innings to get a couple of beers, which was completely unnecessary - the line wasn't particularly long, and the stand was selling nothing but draught (so the pouring of tallcans into cups wasn't an issue), so the general feeling was that the staff were taking their time so as to keep the flow of alcohol to a minimum. If you're going to punish regular fans for the behaviour of the drunken fratboys who show up to one game a year - already drunk - here's an idea... don't serve people who shouldn't be served, and let the rest of us get our beer!

    Another problem - especially on Opening Night, but you see it throughout the season - is the way in which beer is sold by the aisle vendors.
    Last year, to find a beer vendor in the level 100 outfield seats was next to impossible. On Opening Night, we mentioned this to a staffer, who gave us the following excuse: "They sell more in other sections [esp. level 100 infield seats], so they don't come out here". I totally get that they want to maximize their profits, but how frustrating it is when the people in the "cheap" seats (quite often known as the "Real Fans") have to get up and line up for a million years, missing most of the game in the process, just to get a couple of beers - while the suits in the fancy seats get top service. Also lame!
    (Granted, there are stands right behind these sections, and when it's not busy, they don't get lineups... in the long run, we end up winning. But on Opening Night, which is unfortunately more about the party than the game, the lines can often make their way as far as 3-4 sections over. Very frustrating when all you want is an ice cold beer.)

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  3. I think the rationale behind the serving of 'the usual domestics' at the ballpark is simply demographics. The decision-makers at Rogers see that the domestics are the top-sellers at the Beer Store, and they assume that everyone will tolerate (if not love) Bud Lite, Blue, Miller Lite, etc. Better that, they presumably think, then to offer Steam Whistle and possibly deter some beer-purchasing fan who has never heard of Steam Whistle.

    (I might even start getting drunk at baseball games again, if Steam Whistle was widely available. But I digress.)

    I'm down in FLA currently for spring training, and was at the Jays-Devil Rays game yesterday (blogged about the experience last night). The beer situation was the same at the DR's stadium... big lineups for Bud/Miller, and no lineup at the (admittedly more expensive) Guinness/Smithwicks/Kilkenny stand.

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  4. Wes, I think if the number one concern were things being thrown onto the field, then we'd be drinking out of styrofoam cups. Maybe no cans in the 200 and 500 Level as a comprise just in case somebody decides to chuck one down to field level.

    E, personally I'm just going to stay away from the stands on Opening Night. By the time you get your beer, you loose your buzz anyway! And the other thing I remember last year was the walking beer vendors were getting mobbed on the ramp, so they weren't really making the rounds up and down the sections. That also made things a little tricky.

    Roberto, I understand the rationale - appeal to the masses by bringing in the usual domestics. But I think not only would it be a great PR move to team up with Steam Whistle, but I just makes so much sense. The brewery is right there!

    Enjoy your time in ST, sir. Enjoy the Smithwicks!

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  5. I have never seen that bottom fill gizmo before, insane! I'd buy a beer just to see them do it!

    By the end of last season, the aisle vendors weren't pouring the tall cans into cups anymore, just cracking them and handing them straight over-at least that's how it was going up in the 500's. It'll be interesting to see if that was just because they ran out of plastic cups for the entire month of September (I wouldn't put it past the aweful Aramark folks), or a change in the rules. If you're in a pinch you can always bring in a Sub sandwich with a travellor hidden in it...

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  6. The selection is even worse where I live, in the 500 Level. Only Bud and Bud Light on tap, and only served by very angry older men most of the time. It sucks. I would love to see some Steam Whistle, Mill Street, or the like on tap.
    I also agree with the wait during busy games, though they have started getting a lot better at it in the upper deck by opening up a lot of temporary vendors. But the wait along with the frat boy experience, drunken idiots, and fights is the reason why I will NOT be attending Opening Day for the third straight year...

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  7. I want a beer now. Thanks, Ian.

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  8. Giana, it's pretty nifty eh? The first time I saw the video I thought "they NEED this at the Rogers Centre".

    You make a good point about the cups, maybe they did just run out of them and hand people the cans because that's all they had. I hope the trend continues this season.

    500 Level, my sympathy goes out to you in the 500's. A couple of microbrews up there (or anywhere for that matter) would heighten the experience a little bit. And good on you for avoiding the Home Opener, it truly is the smart thing to do. I try to stay away, but against my better judgment I just can't do it.

    Nav, cheers brother. With Drew looking on in displeasure, I say we raise a Bud Light Lime.

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  9. ah yes, the Skydome. The teams suck so why doesn't the beer... par for the course!

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  10. No mention of the absurd prices????

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  11. OH YEAH. Thanks for bringing that up, Giana - I remember that from the end of the season, and I think we asked a beer guy about it... don't quote me (I asked a beer guy, which likely meant I'd been drinking), but we were told that they were giving it a test run to see how it would go.

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  12. That Bottoms Up thing is making someone very rich I bet.
    We need this for the RC. Someone tell Beeston!

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  13. Anon, I think the prices are a given. There isn't very much we can do about that, and if anything they might go up.

    E, hopefully it wasn't just a trail thing because it would save a hell of a lot of time if the vendors just hand over the cans, rather than having to hunch over in the aisle and pour them into the plastic cups.

    Otto, it's a great little machine isn't it? Like I said, that would probably mean beer costs go up. But if that means I can get a beer quicker, all the power to them.

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  14. The reason for no micro beer at the stadium is simplier than you could ever imagine. Labatts pays Rogers for the exclusive rights to sell their products. Have no idea when their rights are up for bid again, but cash will always win over taste.

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  15. Anon, I wondered that myself. There has to be some sort of exclusivity clause in the contract, which would explain the types of beers available currently at the dome.

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  16. That gal on the beer machine should keep her fingers off the rim of the glass. That where I put my mouth! Yecchhh!
    Handle it as you would silverware.

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