A device for sneaky drinkers

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I THINK I KNOW why we haven’t gotten those space-age jet packs we were promised. It looks like the world’s great thinkers are too busy inventing stuff to make it easier for us to drink beer.

In recent months, we’ve seen reports of self-chilling cans from Miller, insulated bottles from Coors and fast-pouring spigots from Guinness.

Possibly the greatest among these 21st-century marvels, though, is the Beerbelly – a device that solves the most pressing problem facing humanity, or at least that portion of humanity that finds it necessary to sneak an entire six-pack past the security guards at Eagles games.

Other creative minds have tackled this challenge over the years with mixed results:

The beer can in the crotch. The booze-filled plastic bag in the bottom of the thermos. The keg in the wheelchair.

The Beerbelly, though, is pure genius.

It’s a stealth beer-containment device, patterned after one of those Camelback water sacks that bicyclists wear. Only it hangs from your shoulders, in front of your stomach. Strap it on, and you’ve got an instant gut.

A hose lets you drink your beer on the sly, and the pouch is insulated to keep the beverage inside either warm or cold.

The Beerbelly had its eureka moment when a couple of guys got together to shoot the bull over beers.

“I’m guessing it was about five years ago,” said co-inventor Brooks Lambert, 46, of southern California. “We were reliving those old high-school memories, how I’d put beers in my socks to smuggle them into the theater and end up freezing my ankles.”

The guys figured there must be a better way, and somebody mentioned neoprene – a synthetic rubber.

“We must’ve been drinking,” Lambert needlessly explained. “We ended up hacking up a wet suit that must’ve cost $350. Then we shoved a Camelback into it and strapped it onto our stomach[s].”

They laughed and drank some more. Then one of the guys said, “Dude, I would totally get one of those.”

That was all they needed.

Lambert’s pal, Ted Colburn, played amateur seamstress, stitched up some big sheets of neoprene and came up with some prototypes. A company in Taiwan fabricated some models with custom bladders, which they handed out to friends.

The first design was uncomfortable. “You don’t have any idea how much 80 ounces of liquid weighs,” Lambert said.

A clothing designer he met at a party came up with a solution: straps that work much like a back brace.

They formed a company, Under Development Inc., and set up a Web site to sell the Beerbelly at $34.95 apiece. Word spread slowly. Lambert said, “I thought it would be just a fun idea that would make us a few bucks on the side.”

Then last month, the New York Post gave the Beerbelly a test run around Manhattan. Dozens of newspapers, radio stations and TV networks picked up the story and, boom, the company has been deluged with orders. So far about 5,000 have been delivered to covert drinkers.

Buyers are filling the company’s inbox with stories of how they made it past security at movie theaters, ballparks and hockey arenas with their stash.

I predict it’s only a matter of time till someone starts complaining about terrorists or teens getting their hands on this device.

“We’re just having fun,” said Lambert, who nonetheless noted that the Beerbelly can just as easily hold lemonade. “You’re really not hurting anybody.”

Except for the $7-a-beer concessionaires, I’d say.

I wondered if the Eagles were worried about the threat.

Spokeswoman Bonnie Grant laughed when she saw the Beerbelly Web site, but she didn’t think the device would make it past the front gate.

“All of the guests and employees who enter Lincoln Financial Field are subject to pat-down searches… from the waist up,” Grant said. “Any attempt to bring in alcohol would be a violation of the code of conduct.”

Indeed, there are no guarantees you’ll slip by unnoticed.

If you are caught, the company suggests trying one of these responses:

A. “This is a medical device that I think we’d both prefer not discussing or viewing in public.”

B. “Department of Homeland Security. We’re testing a new stealth form of body armor to protect our undercover agents overseas in the global war on terror. Don’t make me shut this place down.”

C. “It’s full of urine, so step back or you’re gonna be sorry.”

D. “Want a beer?”


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