PORTLAND, Ore. ( TheStreet) -- Just mentioning the price of beer at a Major League Baseball game can cause a bench-clearing brawl.
There'll be accusations of price inflation. There'll be cries for discounts and reparations. There'll be an overarching argument that the whole thing is unfair... and that's just the stadium vendors talking.
We learned a few things about beer pricing in baseball while writing about it last year, but the biggest lesson is that fans, teams and stadium concessions providers have vastly different views of beer pricing at baseball games. The only constant is that it's all in the eye of the beholder.
Take the Seattle Mariners'
Field, for example.
Team Marketing Report
Fan Cost Index
puts the price of that building's cheapest beer this year at $5.50 for 12 ounces. Step up to one of the Northwest Beers carts on the stadium concourse, though, and you'll get a beer made at a small brewery within city limits for $9.75 -- or about $5 more than you'd pay for it at the taproom across town.
The concessions providers see that $5.50 as their lowest, most affordable beer price. A fan who can't find the stands with that price sees the $9.75 being charged near his or her section as the going rate. While the concessions folks have the moral high ground if there's even one stand in the building selling beers at that price, it's tough to jump all over the fan's case if vendors aren't making that low-priced beer very easy to find.
The absolute truth, however, is that Major League Baseball's average price for a small beer has risen from $5.81 in 2011 to $6.12 this year. At this time in 2011, the highest price for a small beer was the $7.25 the Boston Red Sox were charging at Fenway Park. This year five teams have exceeded that price, with two teams breaking the $8 barrier.
With help from Team Marketing Report, we took a look at the Top 10 beer prices in the league. In each case, that league-average price may as well be fiction for beer-loving fans. It starts with:
10. San Francisco Giants
Price of a small draft beer:
Two World Series titles in three years will do this. Ticket prices jumped 10.6% this year, but the price of a 16-ounce beer at
Park went up a whopping 50 cents. It's tough to argue as long as Pablo Sandoval and company are bringing home the hardware, but in a town where
helped launch craft beer and brewers such as
carry on the tradition, increasing the price of highly spillable ballpark suds is akin to Gordon Biersch skimping on cloves for its garlic fries.