Imagine a sunny, warm summer afternoon. The sun is high in the sky, bathing you in brilliant sunshine. You’re watching your beloved Blue Jays, surrounded by a friendly, well-mannered and unnervingly quiet crowd. In your right hand is a hotdog, topped with your favourite condiments – ketchup, mustard, sauerkraut, onions. In your left hand is another ballpark staple – peanuts in the shell. You settle into your seat. You decided to wear short-shorts today, so your upper thighs are a tad raw due to the warm seat. That won’t dampen your spirits though!
You delicately devour your food as the first pitch is thrown – a strike on the outside corner. Enjoying the first inning, you realize your salty treats have made you thirsty. What’s the tried-and-true, time-honoured way to remedy such a situation? The third piece of the baseball food Holy Trinity – a cold, refreshing beer. You know you’re going to pay through the nose for it, but that’s just the accepted way things are done when you’re taking in the ol’ ballgame.
“HEY! Beer guy! Gimme two!” you bellow to the man doing the Lord’s work.
He saunters over.
“I’ve got Bud, Bud Light and Stella,” he says without an ounce of humour.
“Anything else? Steam Whistle? Amsterdam? Mill Street? Any craft beer?”
“Nope, nope, nope and nope. Bud, Bud Light or Stella.”
“Nothing brewed in Toronto, or by a Canadian company?”
“Look, I just sell it, okay buddy? Bud. Bud Light. Or Stella.”
You mumble obscenities under your breath while fishing out a 20-dollar bill from your wallet and unhappily drink your watered-down, mass-produced, bad-tasting “beer”, devoid of love or craftsmanship, knowing full well that all the proceeds are going to non-Canadian-owned companies.
*End of picture*
Unfortunately, that’s not a beautifully-written work of fiction, it’s a horrifying real-life scenario that Toronto beer aficionados will have to endure during the Blue Jays 2014 home season. All thanks to this week’s news that SkyDome, err, sorry, Rogers Centre will no longer be serving any craft beers for baseball fans to enjoy.
Steam Whistle has been removed from the premises after only a year of tenantship. What unforgivable sin did the “good beer folks” commit? It’s confusing to me, and slightly convoluted, but it seems as though the Blue Jays were upset about Steam Whistle tweeting their…location? From Toronto Star reporter Morgan Campbell’s article on the topic from March 24th: “[Steam Whistle co-founder Greg] Taylor says the club objected to Steam Whistle sending tweets about its Rogers Centre location, claiming they violated market agreements the Jays had with other brewers.” Huh? I’ve heard made-up excuses before, but that one takes the cake.
Even many non-baseball fans find themselves attending one (or several) games during any given season. One of the non-fan’s few vestiges of joy is enjoying a delicious cold one (or several) with friends, so the decision to instead provide alcoholic swill for paying customers to drink is a confusing one.
Steam Whistle is mere steps away from the home of the Blue Jays, so it was, seemingly, a perfect relationship. But Mill Street and Amsterdam – makers of some great beers of their own – aren’t much further away. Southern Ontario is absolutely littered with craft breweries who would, presumably, love to occupy a shelf or two at 50,000ish seat stadium. By my count, there’s 37 members of the Ontario Craft Brewers Association* (OCB). Why not have an OCB stand with all breweries accounted for? It makes sense, merely as a way to placate people, doesn’t it?
Is it too much to ask, after being forced to pay an outrageous markup, that Toronto baseball fans at least be able to choose a beer they’ll enjoy? We live in Canada for Christ's sake, a place kind of known for beer. It's damn near a part of our frickin' heritage. Instead of embracing that, the Blue Jays would rather cater to the giant sign adorning their outfield and apparently take pride in the fact that they're the only team in major league baseball that doesn't support craft breweries.
It sounds simple, but methinks the reasoning for the Steam Whistle dismissal is more, or at least different, than just the aforementioned tweets. Baseball is a business, and it all comes down to the same thing: dolla dolla bills. I wouldn’t be the least surprised if Anheuser-Busch (who brews Budweiser) or Aramark (who has the food contract at Rogers Centre) put their foot down and stopped “outside” beer from being sold to maximize the number of people buying their products.