At bars, stadiums and arenas all over the country, a new beverage is popping up. Well, not so much a new beverage as a new way of pouring an old beverage.
Some college kid – a college kid who can now afford to drop out of college, which is about the only thing that costs more than staying in college – has invented a way to get beer into a plastic cup faster than an undergrad can pull out a fake ID. This device can pump out 30 beers a minute. It is a life-changing invention that will probably end up making more money than Facebook, Twitter, Apple and Google combined. If you don’t have one in your neighborhood yet, you will soon.
“It doesn’t have a head,” exclaimed one young drinker, as if that was the best thing that had happened since the Wright brothers invented texting. Apparently, the head on beer is just stupid foam that wastes valuable space in a cup that could be used for beer.
What, exactly, is upside-down beer? I don’t know; I can just tell you what I’ve seen. The trick seems to be that there is a dime-sized hole, surrounded by a washer-shaped magnet, in the bottom of a plastic cup. On the magnet sits a thin, metallic chip, usually bearing the logo of the beer being served. The bartender, instead of drawing the beer slowly and skillfully from a tap while he tells an amusing story or joke of the day, sets the cup on a spout sticking up from the bar. The glass quickly fills from the bottom up with barely a trace of foam. The little chip snaps back to the magnet and the beer stays in the cup. It all takes less than two seconds. No talking; no chatting; no leisurely, relaxing, stimulating conversation. With three or four taps running, the beer can flow up faster than the stock market can drop 300 points. Why anyone needs a beer that fast is never addressed, but did I mention it was invented by a college kid? It explains so much.
Once the cup is empty, you can retrieve the little chip at the bottom. Every now and then people new to the process try to remove the chip before the cup is empty, which leads to a humiliating mess, especially if you have lifted the cup over your head to see how the whole thing works and poked the chip off the magnet with your finger. You learn how it works, but you pay a heavy price. The last round was on you. Literally.
Beer drinkers collect the chips, mementos of nights they can barely, or no longer, remember. There seems to be a rumor going around that the chips can be traded in for college credits, say, 1,000 chips for an hour’s credit. Sadly, this is not true. Yet.
But the real trick to upside-down beer is getting people to pay $6.50 for a plastic cup of beer, upside down or not. As my dad would have said, “$6.50 for a plastic cup of beer? Are you out. Of. Your. Mind? My first car didn’t cost $6.50!” I’d hate to have to tell him how much a soda and a hot dog cost at a ballpark.
But I am starting to feel his pain. I’ve had good bottles of wine that didn’t cost $6.50. (Grab a bottle of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo if you don’t believe me.) A gallon of milk doesn’t cost $6.50, and that’s a lot harder to make than beer, and it doesn’t last nearly so long. You know there’s something wrong when it’s cheaper to buy beer in an airport terminal restaurant than at a ballpark.
Jim Mullen’s latest book “Now in Paperback!” is now in paperback. You can reach him at jimmullenbooks.com.