Fans talk about how they feel about Natty Boh no longer being sold at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. (Barbara Haddock Taylor, Baltimore Sun video)
First Mr. Boh was there; then, suddenly he disappeared.
The availability of National Bohemian beer at Oriole Park at Camden Yards left fans confused when it was served for the first six home games of the 2016 season before abruptly vanishing.
Originally, the fan favorite was supposed to be sold at the stadium for the entire season, according to the team and Bond Distributing Co., which distributed Natty Boh to the stadium. But several factors, including the expansion of other beer offerings paired with marketing pushes by Boh's parent company early in the season, led to first a reduced Natty Boh presence and ultimately its unexpected ouster.
Although the beer was slated to be served at the park on draft and in cans throughout the 2016 season, its initial availability was noticeably smaller than in previous years. The Natty Boh-branded bar was downsized and relocated to a small stand in the left field lower concourse, and thirsty customers could find the beer at the center-field roof deck and along Eutaw Street. It was no longer being served seatside.
That changed April 19 when the Orioles pulled Boh's kegs and cans entirely from the stadium.
As the Orioles were making room for more local brews this year — including beers from Heavy Seas, Flying Dog, Union Craft Brewing Co. and Brewer's Art — Natty Boh's parent company, Pabst, was busy using Orioles imagery in its marketing. That included 16-ounce cans with Mr. Boh as various orange-and-black clad baseball players, and an image that strongly resembled Orioles catcher Matt Wieters.
The Orioles sent a cease and desist letter to Pabst alleging National Bohemian used the team's trademarks and imagery without permission, a team source confirmed.
It's not the first time Pabst has stepped on toes with its marketing. The city of Portland, Ore., considered legal action against the brewer earlier this year for using a logo that looked strikingly similar to the city's "Portland Oregon" sign to promote its "Project Pabst" series of music festivals, according to news reports.
Pabst officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment for this story.
Leslie Schaller, a marketing manager for Bond Distributing Co., said the company was unaware the Orioles would not be purchasing more Boh until April 19 — when it was suddenly nowhere to be found.
"We are sad that the Orioles have chosen to disappoint the loyal Boh customers, and it's unfortunate that the stadium will not be carrying National Bohemian," she said, calling it an "ill-fated decision."
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While it appears Natty Boh has seen its final days at the ballpark, Schaller said she does not expect the lack of Boh at the stadium affects its popularity in Baltimore, where fans cling to the beer's Baltimore roots despite the fact that it hasn't been brewed in Maryland since 1996. She thinks Boh loyalists will continue to seek it outside Oriole Park.
"We feel that the brand is stronger than ever which makes the decision by the Orioles that much more ludicrous," she said.
The Bohs and O's affiliation lives on elsewhere. Todd Unger, who owns the Fells Point shop Natty Boh Gear, has been working with Pabst since 2005. Unger sells a variety of clothing and accessories that associate Mr. Boh with Baltimore baseball, and he said his deal will not be affected.
"I view Mr. Boh as the unofficial mascot of Baltimore, and I use that with my relationship with Pabst to promote the logo and at the same time to promote the brand," Unger said.
If anything, he thinks the lack of Boh at the stadium will have a positive effect on his business.