Saturday, August 2, 2014

Twins brew up self-serve beer

MINNEAPOLIS—It’s BYOB at the home of the Minnesota Twins for next week’s all-star game.
As in, Be Your Own Bartender.

Just in time for the Home Run Derby on Monday, Target Field in Minneapolis put in two self-serve beer machines in the stands behind first and third base—letting thirsty fans pick a brew, pour, and pay by the ounce.
The pour-your-own stations are unique among the 100-plus stadiums and arenas in the four major professional sports in the United States, though not the first of their kind, a concessions consultant said.
They’re not about boosting sales, cutting labour costs, or shortening lines, said Delaware North Companies general manager Pete Spike, who provides concessions at Target Field.
And it’s too early to say whether the machines are the future of beer concessions—or even whether Target Field will add more.
For now, they’re just something new.
“It’s a novelty. That’s one thing that parks have lost over the years,” Spike noted.
“You used to be able to get ice cream in a special package you couldn’t get anywhere else,” he remarked.
“Now you can get it everywhere.
“This is merely something fun,” Spike added.
After an ID check (“Just because it’s self-serve doesn’t mean it’s unmonitored,” said Twins’ spokesman Chris Iles), fans buy a card pre-loaded with $10, $20, or $40.
Then they hop in line for their beer of choice: Budweiser and Bud Light for 38 cents an ounce (a little over $6 for a pint) or Goose Island 312 Urban Pale Ale and Shock Top’s Lemon Shandy for 40 cents per ounce.
The self-pouring is monitored, too, to stop anyone who may be over-serving themselves.
Grab a cup, tap the beer card, and pour.
The Twins sold about 100 beer cards with just one machine running during its debut for a July 6 home game against the N.Y. Yankees, Spike said.
Add a second station, a week of media coverage on the machines, and an estimated 80,000 baseball fans between Monday’s Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game on Tuesday, and Spike expects a rush of thirsty fans.
Twins’ fan and beer drinker Jim Landry said he thinks too many steps make the new machines a hindrance rather than a convenience.
“I don’t see the point,” he remarked. “I’d rather go to a beer guy to get a beer.”
Food service consultant Chris Bigelow isn’t sold on the idea, either.
He heard about the beer stations—the only ones he’s aware of at current pro sports venues—and remembered a similar self-serve beer concept at the Detroit Red Wings’ home arena in the early ‘80s.
Fans had trouble properly pouring a beer, making the process messy and slow, and the idea was quickly scrapped, Bigelow noted.
“They were wasting a lot of beer,” he said. “They found that it was terrible.”
Target Field’s new machines have LCD screens with pouring instructions behind each set of taps, but Spike conceded they ran into a few hiccups with messy pours on a test run last week, especially after the machines sat idle.
The stations will stay at Target Field for the rest of the season—and plans for expansion or changes will depend on fan feedback.
Bigelow applauded Twins’ concessionaires for being creative but doubts the machines will become the norm at stadiums.
“All I will say is good luck with that,” he remarked.
“Do I think it’s going to replace normal beer equipment? Probably not.”

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