In a baseball stadium named after a brewery, you can understand why conversations about other beer brands might seem a little, well, out of left field.
Coors (and its parent company) is a fiercely competitive conglomerate that has paid millions and millions of dollars since 1995 for the rights to have its name on the ballpark and to sell its beer during Colorado Rockies home games.
The current deal, establishing Coors as "the official malt beverage sponsor" of the team, runs through 2018. Coors also owns the Blue Moon Brewing Company at the Sandlot, the only brewery located inside a major-league baseball stadium.
But in October, the Rockies announced that Coors Field would replace 3,000 seats in right field with a two-story, 38,000-square-foot rooftop deck and lounge area. Currently under construction -- and scheduled to be ready by opening day -- the deck will include an outlet of CHUBurger, a hamburger restaurant owned by Longmont's Oskar Blues.
And although the announcement of the new project didn't mention it, Oskar Blues is another wildly successful Colorado brewery. Shhhhhh.
So how did the deal come together? Greg Feasel, the team's COO, explains that the Rockies and Oskar Blues founder Dale Katechis have had a connection for a while.
"Dale is a fan of baseball," he says. "He's been to our fantasy camp and is a season-ticket holder -- and one thing led to another. What he's done is a great story, and even though his other business is the foundation of how they got started, they are very excited about the craft-burger concept that the company has come up with."
That concept begins at Hops & Heifers, the Boulder County farm where Oskar Blues raises grass-fed beef, along with hops. Oskar Blues then uses the beef in the burgers its serves at CHUBurger, a Longmont fast-casual restaurant that it describes as "craft-casual."
Of course, CHUBurger also serves Oskar Blues beer -- a lot of Oskar Blues beer -- and is named after Old Chub, a Scotch ale that is one of the brewery's best-selling beers. So will the stadium's rooftop deck serve, ahem, Oskar Blues beer as well?
Oskar Blues spokesman Chad Melis says that since the place is called Coors Field, that's not really the point. "We're there to provide the restaurant side of things," he explains, adding only that the spot "will be consistent with other Oskar Blues locations."
Feasel didn't have a specific answer, either, saying, "It's against the law to be exclusive with alcoholic beverage companies, so we have other products in here," including Dale's Pale Ale, another Oskar Blues product sold in some parts of the stadium.
Just don't say that too loudly when anyone from Coors is around.
The final decision about what beers will be served at CHUBurger and the 5280 Craft Bar that will also be located on the new rooftop deck will be made by Aramark, which runs all of the concessions at Coors Field and owns the liquor license, Feasel says. An Aramark spokesman didn't return a call or an e-mail seeking comment.
Making the possible competition easier for Coors to swallow, perhaps, is the fact that Oskar Blues, along with New Belgium, Odell, Breckenridge and Boston Beer, which can all be found inside Coors Field, are distributed by the Coors Distributing Company in Colorado.
Besides, as Melis says, the beer may not be the point. After all, there aren't many small Colorado companies selling products at Coors Field, and although Oskar Blues is the second-largest craft-beer maker in the state, it's still a relatively small operation.
"When they were looking at this, they were looking at something authentically Colorado and for something that would vibe with an outdoor deck," Melis says.
"They were really open-minded. You think of something like the Rockies as being big and corporate, but they were really wanting to collaborate," he adds. "It will be a great setup up there with something that will be really unique and which is true to what we are trying to accomplish as well."
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