Squeeze play on tap: Suds fans cheated 2 oz. per cup at Vet

The Phillies, who sell the most expensive cup of beer in the National League, are skimming their suds.

It’s a racket that costs beer-drinking fans at Veterans Stadium nearly a half-million bucks a year.

Every time you buy a cup, you’re being shorted a sip of cold, ballpark brew.

In a town where beer is a fundamental part of baseball lore (remember the old Ballantine scoreboard at Connie Mack?), failing to give an honest pour is worse than striking out with the bases loaded.

It’s un-American.

Joe Sixpack uncovered the rampant short-cupping during Tuesday night’s game against the Reds.

In a random sampling of the Vet concessions, I found that the ballclub’s $5 purported 18-ounce cup of draft brew actually contains, at most, just 16 ounces of beer. A 12-ounce cup typically contains 10 or 11 ounces.

Those two ounces may not sound like much, but check out the math:

Estimated cups of beer sold in 1997: 750,000.

Value of skimmed suds at 2 ounces per cup: $495,000.

By short-changing ballpark boozers, the Vet gets up to 14 extra cups from every keg. That’s $90 extra revenue from each of the thousands of kegs tapped each season.

Ogden Entertainment, the $16 million-a-year company that runs the Vet’s concessions, denied any ripoff.

The company, which lately has been fending off complaints about foul-tasting, overpriced hot dogs, refused to answer questions.

Instead, it faxed a 58-word statement that says, “Our large beer has always been properly filled – leaving room for a head. ”

Brian Hastings, Ogden’s service manager at the stadium, adds in the statement: “In our 13 years at the Vet, we’ve never had a complaint about the beer. ”

Yet, as I wandered through the stadium’s concourses in search of an honest beer Tuesday night, I came up empty.

Armed with a plastic measuring cup from a local dollar store, I measured 10 draft beers. Budweiser or Miller Lite, it didn’t matter: each 18-ounce cup barely made it to the 16-ounce marker.

(My spigot sampling was confirmed during another visit by fellow Daily News reporter Frank Dougherty. )

Though the tap-tender often meticulously filled each cup to the brim, the result was a deficit in the draft.

The problem is a matter of simple physics: The Vet’s cups are too small to properly contain 18 ounces of beer.

Fill a cup with a minimal head (both Miller and Budweiser recommend at least a half-inch), and you get just 16 ounces of beer.

That’s not enough.

The stadium’s beer signs clearly advertise 18-ounce beers, not 18-ounce cups partially filled with beer.

And experts agreed: the collar of foam in each cup does not count toward the volume of beer.

Bill Siebel, president of America’s most respected beer school, the 126-year-old Siebel Institute in Chicago, said foam is mostly carbon dioxide.

“If you let the foam collapse, you get very little beer out of it,” Seibel said.

Charging baseball fans 33 cents an ounce for air is not just unAmerican, it may be illegal.

In Britian, for example, the law requires ale glasses to be filled to a line that marks a full pint – not including the head. A skinflit publican faces a stiff fine.

In America, beer-pouring is regulated by local weights and measures inspectors. Recently, several towns in California, including San Francisco and Santa Cruz, have cracked down on dishonest pints at brewpubs.

In Philadelphia, it’s up to the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections, where officials yesterday declined to comment.

The department has a record of going after vendors and manufacturers who cheat consumers. Two years ago, for example, it fined Heinz about $15,000 for selling bottles of ketchup that were about a half-teaspoon underweight.

L&I may have a conflict in enforcing proper beer sales at the Vet, however, because City Hall collects $2.70 from every large cup of beer sold at Phillies games.

The city’s huge bite out of stadium concession sales is one reason beer drinkers at the Vet must shell out the equivalent of a sixpack for just one cup of beer. Only the American League’s Anaheim Angels in pricey Southern California dare charge more.

Even if the Vet poured a full cup, it would bring in about $600 for a keg of domestic beer. For that price, you could buy four kegs of the finest Belgian ale.

But Ogden likely pays only about $40 a keg – if that. Beer insiders say many stadiums receive free beer from distributors as a way of advertising their product.

I figure the stadium’s cost per cup is about 34 cents. At five bucks, the markup is 1,364 percent – even without skimming suds.

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