In a first for Major League Baseball stadiums, Target Field has rolled out self-serve beer machines that let fans decide for themselves exactly the size brew they thirst for.
The first station, with two dispensing machines on the third-base side along the main concourse, made its wet run Sunday during the Minnesota Twins' loss to the New York Yankees. A second station will be added on the same concourse along the first-base side in time for the July 15 All-Star Game, and they will remain for the rest of the season, said Twins spokesman Chris Iles.
Pete Spike, general manager for concessions provider Delaware North, said Target Field is the first MLB venue to have the machines and added that he's unaware of any NFL, NBA or NHL teams having the devices. Patrons buy vending cards and use them to dispense beer from the machines.
Day One "worked really well," Spike said, noting that about 200 cards were sold.
There are four beers to choose from, with per-ounce pricing based on the cost charged in face-to-face transactions: Bud and Bud Light (38 cents per ounce), and Shock Top Lemon Shandy and Goose Island 312 Urban Pale Ale (40 cents per ounce).
"This allows the guests to customize to their tastes," Spike said, rather than locking drinkers into fixed sizes ranging from 12 to 24 ounces.
Spike said he saw one fan Sunday "come up and get 3 or 4 ounces, then come back an inning later and get another 3 or 4."
Prices won't change for the All-Star Game. However, the Paul McCartney concert Aug. 2 at Target Field will see prices nudge up a few cents per ounce to cover municipal taxes for live music events, Spike said.
Here's how the machines work:
A patron goes to a concession cashier, shows proper identification to verify age and buys a vending card with either $10 or $20 on it to scan at the machine. There will be $50 cards available for the All-Star Game.
The customer takes a 20-ounce cup from the machine's ledge, pulls down on the tap handle and draws anywhere from a gulp to right up to the brim, "like topping off your [gas] tank," Spike said.
A video screen on each machine "shows you, step by step, how to pour a beer properly," he added. To keep the line moving, patrons have 20 seconds to complete their transaction.
A customer can withdraw up to 48 ounces every 15 minutes. There is an employee at each station to not only check identification but also to intercede should a beer drinker appear intoxicated.
And just like at the concession counters or when buying from vendors in the stands, the machines will shut down by the seventh inning. No need to cry in your beer, though, if there are still some suds on your card. The cards don't expire.
Spike said other brands of beer could soon be served, and there's also a chance that soda could join in the vending trend.
The machines are made by Georgia-based DraftServ Technologies, which has been in the self-serve beer business since 2007 and counts Carnival Cruises among its array of clients.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482