Commentary

Farewell to the ballpark beer line

Originally Published: March 31, 2011
By Tom Lakin | Special to Page 2

Turns out Carl Crawford wasn't the biggest free agent signed by the Red Sox this winter:

That'd be 28-year-old suds-slinger Josh Springer.

Springer is the founder of GrinOn Industries and creator of the Bottoms Up Beer Dispenser, a light-speed tap system that pours beer -- you guessed it -- from the bottom up. And this season, as part of a deal with Aramark, Springer is bringing his beer gear to Fenway Park.

It's a home run for the Aberdeen, Wash. native, who started the company in 2008 after a liquid-fueled epiphany at his dad's birthday party.

"We were drinking margaritas," Springer says, "and suddenly I had this crazy idea for a beer pitcher that filled from the bottom."

Springer soon constructed a working prototype of the current system, which fills specially-designed plastic cups (not pitchers) from beneath. The cups have magnetic disks at the bottom, which rise when pushed upwards by incoming beer. A flow-meter stops the pour when it reaches the rim and the magnets seal the swill.

As Springer tweaked the system, he quickly realized he had stumbled onto something great. The machine was Usain Bolt-fast, with a four-cup station capable of filling up to 56 cups per minute -- far faster than a traditional tap.

Armed with this frosty gold mine, Springer and a couple buddies loaded up a van and took off "guerilla warfare style" down the West Coast, stopping at minor league ballparks along the way. The ragtag salesmen would sway skeptical receptionists by wheeling a mobile demo dispenser into the office and pouring beers for everyone present.

"We were really flying by the seat of our pants," Springer says.

The gang hit the jackpot when they did a demonstration for Joe Carter, food and beverage director at UNLV's Thomas & Mack Center. Carter was blown away by the technology and became GrinOn's first customer.

"The beer pours perfectly every time," Carter says. "It's quicker, it reduces spoilage. It's just a win-win in every way."

After the success of Bottoms Up at UNLV, word began to spread. YouTube videos of the dispenser in action went viral. Arenas around the country took notice and potential customers soon realized, as Carter had, that custom-designed cup magnets could be a valuable source of advertising revenue.

"Advertisers love the magnets and so do fans," Carter said. "They are cool and people actually seek them out."

Suddenly Bottoms Up was the ultimate double-threat: an ultra-efficient product with endless advertising appeal. With little more than a birthday buzz, Josh Springer had become the Benjamin Franklin of beer.

And, now, his empire is growing.

Today, there are Bottoms Up dispensers at Jacksonville's EverBank Field, Washington's Verizon Center and Busch Stadium in St. Louis, among others, and expansion plans are underway. After a successful trial run in 2009, Fenway signed up for two machines this year, one on its big outfield concourse and another outside the stadium on Yawkey Way. Sox fans can expect shorter beer lines by Opening Day.

As for Springer, he plans to keep on spreading the good cheers.

"Everyone hates beer lines," he says. "And fortunately for us, there are beer lines all over the world."