Following 12 seasons in Major League Baseball, Jeff Francoeur has turned to the Three B’s: broadcasting, blueberries and beer.
The former Atlanta Braves outfielder and current broadcaster launched a beer Tuesday with Athens, Georgia-based Terrapin Beer Co. called Frenchy’s Blues, made with blueberries from his Southern Georgia blueberry farm. Francoeur played 12 seasons in the majors, including time with the Mets, Rangers, Royals, Giants, Padres, Phillies and Marlins.
“I grew up in Atlanta, my wife went to Georgia, so I’ve known about Terrapin for a long time,” Francoeur said. “When this idea came about, what a fun concept to do in Atlanta, where I played, lived and now am a broadcaster. It just made sense.”
As Francoeur and the Terrapin brewers contemplated a style for the collaboration, the use of blueberries from his farm came into play. Brewing up a Berliner Weisse, a slightly tart beer with German roots, the use of fruit came naturally.
“In Germany, it’s served plain and they’ll add fruit syrups to it so it was a no-brainer to do blueberry,” says Spike Buckowski, Terrapin co-founder. “It is a little tart, but the blueberry adds a little sweetness and flavor.”
Knowing what it’s like on the field in Atlanta during the summer — Tuesday’s high was 92 degrees — Francoeur wanted the beer to be refreshing and believes they’ve accomplished the goal with the blue-tinted, 5% alcohol-by-volume Frenchy’s Blues.
It’s not the first Braves beer for Terrapin, which has a small brewery at its ATL Brew Lab connected to the Brave’s SunTrust Park. The brewery has even made a beer aged on the wood used to make baseball bats. One of Francoeur’s objectives was to ensure his beer clocked in at a slightly higher alcohol percentage than that of the beer the brewery made with Braves great Chipper Jones, the 4.9% CJ10 kölsch-style beer.
“Even though he’s a Hall of Famer, I had to let him know where he stands,” Francoeur said.
Buckowski said he’s always excited to collaborate on beers as it gives him an opportunity to come up with new recipes, but was especially ecstatic about Francoeur’s beer since it tells his story from baseball to farming.
“He does relate with the fanbase so well, it’s a — pun intended — home run,” he says.
Approximately 400 kegs of the beer were made in the first batch as it will be one of up to eight beers brewed at the ATL Brew Lab on tap, along with another 10 or so from Terrapin’s large brewery in Athens. The Brew Lab provides an entry-point to SunTrust Park and acts as a connection point for the area outside known as “The Battery Atlanta.” Both Francoeur and Buckowski love “The Battery” for its year-round activation of the stadium and Francoeur says he might even wait around after games to drink a brew, let the traffic clear out and “maybe even buy 30 sit there and watch people drink them.”
“I think you’ll see more and more ballparks go this way of thinking surrounded by retailers, beer halls and restaurants,” Buckowski said. “It keeps people engaged. People come several hours before and stay several hours after. It’s a family affair.”
There’s a growing trend of athletes and teams partnering with breweries, as noted in an FOS feature on current Kansas City Royal Whit Merrifield’s deal with Boulevard Brewing. The connection to the industry is pretty easy, Francoeur says, and it makes it even better to partner with a brewery he’s familiar with.
“Most of us drink it, you play enough baseball you want a few beers to not think about it,” he said. “It’s something that’s fun and fans can relate to baseball. Now as a broadcaster, you talk to enough people, you’re in their house every night of the summer, they feel like they get to know you, much less my favorite things.
“What are some of my favorites? Golfing, grilling out and drinking beer.”
To introduce the beer, Francoeur spent the third inning Tuesday in the ATL Brew Lap taproom at SunTrust Field, announcing the game. Thursday night, he’ll host a launch party at the taproom with his friends, family and fans and do a Q&A to talk about the beer.
“It’s something I’m really looking forward to,” he said. “All my life I’ve played baseball and now to be with people drinking the beer and telling the story, it’s such a cool thing.”
The beer is currently only available at SunTrust Park and select bars around the field, but they didn’t rule out a future wider distribution. For now, fans will have to head to Atlanta and saddle up to the bar, where Francoeur might be buying a round, just to hang out.