Thankfully, your cup runneth under at the Vet

Complaining about beer at Phillies games brings to mind that old joke about the two ladies disgusted with their lunch.

“The soup tastes horrible,” says the first.

“Yes,” agrees the second, “and the portion is too small. ”

Joe Sixpack spent the better part of last week griping about getting shorted two ounces on every $5 beer they sell at Phillies games. The Vet’s purported 18-ounce cups contain just 16 ounces of drinkable brew – a boondoggle that I figure costs beer-drinking baseball fans about a half-million dollars a year.

Actually, maybe the Phils are doing us a favor.

Every time you get short-cupped down at the Vet, that’s two fewer ounces of dreck you have to swallow.

The most obvious problem is the cups. They’re made of flimsy, wax-coated paper – a cheap cup that would be appropriate only if this were a buck-a-head Drexel University frat party.

Your first gulp of suds is likely to be accompanied by a mouthful of wax flecks.

At least the wax gives the beer some body.

The ballpark’s two main draft beers are Bud and Miller Lite, a pair of non-distinct factory brews known to refresh without imparting any significant taste. These are the two biggest-selling beers in the nation, a standing wholly attributable to mass advertising and the unwillingness of most Americans to broaden their palates. Both are clear, sparkling brews with a weak malt-and-rice flavor balanced by a negligible hop presence.

Bud and Miller might be perfectly satisfying under certain conditions: a hot, muggy Philadelphia afternoon under the blazing sun, perhaps, when there is absolutely nothing else to drink. Not even water.

At the Vet, sun-baked baseball fans, hoarsely gasping for something – anything – to soothe their parched throats are greeted by gurgling taps of foul suds that bring to mind the toxin-spewing drainpipes of the Chester waterfront.

Some people accuse the Vet of watering its beer, but that’s doubtful, if only because fresh water would be a distinct improvement.

I don’t know if the spigots are dirty, the lines are clogged, the beer is old or what. But the drafts are off, guys.

It is true that, even on a bad day, the Vet sells about 5,000 cups of this swill. To which I reply: Imagine how much beer you’d move if you offered a better, more affordable product. Baseball fans know they’re going to get ripped off on beer at the Vet – that’s why they binge-drink in the parking lot and smuggle in bottles.

Ogden Entertainment, the stadium concessionaire, insists it has never received a complaint about its beer.

I don’t believe it; even diners at Le Bec-Fin occasionally reject a bottle of wine.

To be accurate, there are other beer choices at the Vet.

Red Bell operates several wood-paneled booths where it sells 14-ounce plastic cups of its Philly-made ales and lager at $5.25. That’s a stiff price for a ballpark brew, but it is fresh and tasty. I’m hoping the brewery’s superb hefe-weizen makes an appearance at the stadium this summer.

There’s a bigger variety of bottles at two Brew Master stands in the 200- and 500-Level concourses. But, again, price is a downer. A 12-ounce bottle of Yuengling Lager goes for $5.25 – about the price of a full sixpack at your favorite deli. Flag Porter will set you back an astounding $17 – the equivalent of $204 for a 12-bottle case.

The good news is the Vet returned its beermen to the stands. The vendors had been missing for several years, the unfortunate result of the stadium’s attempts to prevent underage drinking. They sell a surprisingly cold 16-ounce can of Miller or Bud for $5. Unfortunately this, too, is dumped into a paper cup.

The beer man is essential to the baseball experience, his voice – Yo, getcha cold one! – an echo of our national pasttime. I’m not sure if the people who profit from our city’s love for baseball care about such things. Nonetheless, here are Joe Sixpack’s two ounces worth of beer advice:

Switch to plastic cups. Penny-pitching is ruining your product.

Use bigger cups. If you’re going to serve 18 ounces of beer, put it in a 20-ounce cup so there’s room for a collar of foam.

Drop the prices. Five bucks for a run-of-the-mill domestic draft is outrageous.

Broaden your draft selection. The Red Bell booths are nice, but you’re missing an opportunity to showcase at least a dozen other local micros.

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