Editor's note: Be sure to check out Part 2 and Part 3 of this investigation
I considered doing a full investigation before going to print, but thought some
blog-o-sphere, I mean theferm.org fan interaction might give me some ideas into my next pursuit.
TheFerm enjoys a ballgame at Minute Maid park as much if not more than the next baseball fan. TheFerm is also aware the beer prices are exorbitant at ball parks, but it's just part of the experience. It didn't take me long to do the math and realize that my ticket is usually around $20, my beer tab, should I go for round 3, will almost always exceed that.
Because the beer price can be so high at ballparks, many of the beer loving crowd are forced to do a little more math than usual to find the best deal. It's not completely dissimilar to the economy...when things are a bit out of whack, time to think before we spend.
It started on Opening Day of this year. Three "partners" of "TheFerm" wandered into the ballpark, and were excited that the largest Houston Craft Brew (St. Arnold) was rumored to be more prevalent throughout the ballpark. While I personally partook of a pregame special at Larry's Big Bamboo (more in a minute), one of our crew grabbed a St. Arnold in the upper level (only stand up there). For $10, he received a pretty tall pour of St. Arnold Amber. Seemed steep, but it was a National Holiday (Opening Day should be a National Holiday).
At a future game, it was realized that there are $8 St. Arnold DRAFT pours in the lower level, but in another (specialized w/ St. Arnold on the side) sized cup. It was not immediately clear which size was bigger. Hmmm. I absconded with various cups to my personal research lab for further testing.
It was discovered that the $10 was 23 ounces, the $8 was 20 oz. As a point of reference, the 23 ounce size UPSTAIRS appears to be $9 for Shock Top, Drop Top, and Landshark (these brews explicitly boycotted by The Ferm, FYI). Two Ferm partners also recall that last year St. Arnold was $6.75 for a 12 oz. bottle pour, and it has been reported that a draft pour of Bud/Miller is $7.50 for what is believed to be the 23 ounce size. In what is also a shocker, I later received a 23 oz. pour of Sam Adams (cup actually used to verify draft size), which was next to the Shock Top and Drop Top (DOWNSTAIRS) for only $8. At this point, I believe Minute Maid park as a direct price discrepancy b/w the upper deck and lower deck (Various Tops = $8 down, $9 up). Bottles run $7.75, I do not recall if they are 16 ounce or 20 ounce. I believe 16 oz. Upstairs for $9, a 24 oz. Bud can was also being purchase, assume Miller/Coors the same.
The aforementioned Larry's Big Bamboo runs a $3.75 pregame special, again the cup size is in question, but it is believed to be 12 oz. (keg cup, but not those really puny ones). During the 2005 World Series, there was a mug special for $10, turns out to be a measured 24 oz.
So how does all this stack up? Let's measure all beer in CPMMO, Cents per Minute Maid Ounce.
Italics = No longer available
31 CPMMO: Ziegenbock/Bud/Miller at Larry's Big Bamboo if 12 oz. cup - pregame only
32 CPMMO: Bud/Miller draft (all concession stands)
35 CPMMO: Sam/Shock/Drop Top/Shiner(?) downstairs
38 CPMMO: Bud/Miller 24 oz. cans (at Larry's Little Bamboo upstairs, maybe other places)
38 CPMMO: Ziegenbock/Bud/Miller at Larry's Big Bamboo if 10 oz. cup - pregame only
39 CPMMO: Bud/Miller/Coors plastic bottles if 20 oz.
40 CPMMO: St. Arnold in 20 oz cup
42 CPMMO: 2005 World Series Mug* (Bud/Miller draft)
43 CPMMO: St. Arnold in 23 oz. cup
48 CPMMO: Bud/Miller/Coors plastic bottles if 16 oz.
56 CPMMO:: St. Arnold in 12 oz. bottle poured into cup
* Mug was collectable, retail value at least $2, knocking price down to 33 CPMMO.
Top Secret photos from J.R. Ewing's Lab:
Further research to take place.
Top 5 list of things to be determined:
1) Size of pregame special draft at Larry's Big Bamboo.
2) Size of $7.75 bottles distributed by beer guys around stadium (might be 16 oz, making it one of the worst values in the stadium).
3) Verification of upstairs vs. downstairs pricing scheme
4) Any different deals in Lefty's Pub
5) Investigation of beer options not discovered as of yet.
In other shenanigan news, during this investigation, there was a large, dare I say HUGE discrepancy in line length for beer. The one and only premium beer stand upstairs (Larry's Little Bamboo) had a constant line of 1+ innings. I was frustrated to wait and only find people ordering Bud 24 ouncers (at one point the lady ran out and the whole line was stuck until she could get more Bud to the people). After two passes on this line, I went downstairs and realized that the special Bud stands down there were overrun BUT the premium stands were walk right up. A few snapshots (none of these staged, it was like this the whole game).
I encourage TheFerm followers to post suggestions for follow up work. Also, if you live in another baseball market, please offer some price comps. Is the Minute Maid ~$8 average price as ridiculous as we think? What about Wrigley? Yankee? Fenway? Or how about the smaller markets (come on, can KC charge more than $6 with a straight face to the 8K fans that bother to show up)? I have been constantly frustrated that the Houston Aeros minor league hockey club seems to have the same pricing scheme of the Houston Rockets very major league basketball club...come one, I'm not paying $8 for a beer at a minor league hockey game. But that's another blog for another day.