With its nickname of Brew City generated from the city’s extensive and long-running brewing history, Milwaukee has been the good land for beermakers for generations. According to beerinstitute.org, the economic impact of the beer industry in Wisconsin is over $8 billion and makes up nearly 4 per cent of the GDP. I would venture that beer prices are among the lowest in the nation in Milwaukee, partially due to its breweries’ proximity and the city’s drinking culture. You can still get a small draft beer for a buck in a lot of hole-in-the-wall spots around the city. Tom Smith of Pittsburgh Pirates blog RumBunter recently posted a story on the average price per ounce of beer at MLB ballparks. At first I was somewhat surprised at the Brewers’ place on the “sexy infographic” (above) as Tom describes it, because I thought they’d be closer to the most affordable in MLB. The Brewers end up tied essentially for the 8th-cheapest beer ounce, at 38 cents along with the Twins, Orioles and Rockies. I’ve been to PNC Park in Pittsburgh several times and during the most recent visit, I was taken aback by what I perceived as high beer prices, even though Pittsburgh, according to this study, came in at four cents cheaper per ounce compared to Miller Park. Certainly these stats aren’t the end-all or definitive, but what’s up with the Los Angeles Angels nabbing the “top” spot as it were, with just 28 cents per ounce of beer? At around $4.50 for a pint pour, they’re practically giving it away!
ASSuming the above numbers are correct, the order of things is a little bizarre. Certainly, I, for one, would expect to see major-market clubs at the “most expensive” end of the spectrum, where we find the Boston Red Sox at 60 cents an ounce. But what about the St. Louis Cardinals close behind at 56 cents? Wouldn’t we expect the Cardinals to offer their local swill at less than that rate? I have to say, Busch Stadium is probably the worst MLB park I’ve been to in terms of beer options. All I remember is Budweiser, and mostly 24-ounce cans that retail for like $12-14. That’s probably somewhat inaccurate, but my perception was that of a Golden Curtain of Budweiser authoritarianism. The rest of the list above seems to work like a see-saw, going back and forth between market sizes. I didn’t find the clubs I was expecting to find in the middle, with the Chicago Cubs and White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants and Philadelphia Phillies all within a dime of each other. Why is the beer so pricey in Cincinnati compared to San Diego, for example? I have no answers.
Pittsburgh’s PNC Park has a craft beer setup much like Milwaukee’s Miller Park. There are areas you can get craft beer, but those beers are in distinct spots rather than spread out evenly. As Smith mentions in his take on the ounce-per-dollar scale, this could very reasonably be seen as a sign of gigantor macro breweries wielding their immense weight in terms of contracted territorial rights. In most ballparks, craft beers are segregated so as to uniformly offer the Budweiser, Coors and Miller products that the masses are conditioned to request and prefer. Still, it would be nice if craft beers were easier to obtain for those who want to purchase them. There are logistical concerns that come along with all of that, but what I would definitely like to see more of is craft beers on tap at MLB parks. I appreciate the large selection that can be afforded to the fans when ballparks have a big cooler of various craft beers in bottles and then can cater more to specific tastes. The problem with that is most times you’ll get 12 ounces of your preferred craft beer and then it’s half gone by the time you reach your seat. No, quantity is nice too, and for those who want to splurge a little bit, a pint pour of a nice craft brew “on draught” would be worth the cost.
But, I digress. The main thing was just to wonder about this infographic. At first I was thinking: “Bring on the Lakefront Brewery, Capital, Horny Goat, New Glarus, Leinenkugel and Miller. Give me Ale Asylum, Buffalo Water, Hinterland, Tyranena and Potosi. I want Wisconsin Brewing Company, Pitchfork, Pearl Street, Rush River, Central Waters, Milwaukee Brewing Company, Big Bay and Sprecher. Come one and all Wisconsin breweries, and we shall make them affordable so that even the poorest among us may drink ye fine ales and lagers, and be merry as we watch our grand old game of baseball together at this glorious establishment”. Then I got to thinking: but maybe the Brewers keep the prices in the middle of the pack…for a reason. Miller Park offers a helluva pre-party for baseball fans. Maybe it’s better that prices are affordable enough to get a buzz inside the stadium, but not cheap enough to unleash such a tide of drunkenness upon the city that even Milwaukee, with its venerable history of drink, would flinch in dismay.
In a minor transaction, the Brewers signed Zach Duke.
(In sleepy Juneau Town, there's a place for….street fighting man!…..oh….get down……(Image: 4.uwm.edu))