Friday, January 21, 2011

Drinking Craft Beer in Mansfield, Ohio

As most of you are aware, I am not from Wisconsin. I am from most of the entire area of Northern Ohio. Born in the shadows of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, raised in Mansfield, lived on the East and West sides of Cleveland, college in Toledo and Akron. But, I spent my formative years, the years between the ages of 2 and 15 in Mansfield, Ohio.

Mansfield is an industrial wasteland, a brief layover and spot to hide-out for drug dealers running from the law in Cleveland (1 hour North of Mansfield), Columbus (1 hour South of Mansfield), and Akron (1 hour East of Mansfield). It is similar to Janesville, Wisconsin in that GM also had a plant there that they shut down there - not to mention manufacturing facilities for Tappan, Westinghouse, and Mansfield Tire and Rubber. It is the county seat of an otherwise rural county. It is, approximately, the dividing line between Northern Ohio and Southern Ohio, with most residents choosing to side with the gun-toting, southern drawling, race baiting, NASCAR-loving, John Boehner-voting, redneck part of the state (i.e., everything South of Mansfield, Ohio). But, it's home, and I still have family that live there.

It is a place where Budweiser and Miller have not just a hold on the market like everywhere, but a place where bar patrons actually get in fights over which is awesomer, Bud or Miller. Grocery stores provide a wonderful choice of 30-packs of Bud, Bud Light, Bud Ice, Bud Ice Light, Bud Select, Bud Ale, Miller Chill, etc., etc., etc.

And Great Lakes.

So, imagine my surprise when my Google Alert for "Beer" results in an article from hometown newspaper the Mansfield News Journal. It is a terrible paper, it always has been. The actual reporting that goes on the News Journal is AP re-writes at best. But, apparently, they actually have a beer columnist - Mr. Steve Goble, a copy editor and self-appointed "beer snob". His column is called "Brewologist" (what does that even mean?). The article that came up in my alert is called "How Awesome is Colorado Craft Beer? Really Awesome? Or Super Awesome?"

So, you're probably asking yourself why I'm writing all of this deeply personal, resentful, silly things about people and places that you neither care about nor have any interest in. And the answer is simple: because it's my blog and I can do what I want. Actually, no, that's not why.

There's two really interesting things about this article in an over-arching theme sort of way.

First, a craft beer column in Mansfield, Ohio. Freaking Mansfield, Ohio has a beer columnist. That has got to be some sort of milestone in the metrics used by the Brewers Association to determine penetration of craft beer in the minds of Americans. If Mansfield, Ohio is drinking craft beer, the "education" and "market introduction" days are over.

It is officially time to welcome in the era of Growth for the craft beer industry. Classic indicators of the Growth stage are increased competition in the space, price competition among entrants, and increased distribution outside of the core customer base. We can officially assume that most consumers know about the product and are now searching for distinctions between competing products.

Second, I'm about sick and tired of hearing about how Colorado beer (and Oregon and California, for that matter) is so freaking awesome. Like anywhere else, Colorado has some great breweries. But Colorado also has really terrible breweries and many mediocre breweries (such as Boulder Beer's Hazed and Confused - the subject of the article). For some reason, they all insist on distributing outside of Colorado, though. Maybe because New Belgium rules Colorado with such an iron fist that they are all tired of fighting for New Belgium's scraps.

But it's also why Wisconsin breweries need to look at this and learn some lessons. Yes, I understand the "don't grow too fast" argument, but these mediocre Colorado breweries are making in-roads in the Midwest because they are stretching themselves a little bit and beating our own breweries to the shelves. Journalists in Mansfield, Ohio are writing about Colorado beer, not Wisconsin beer, or Indiana beer, or Illinois beer, or Minnesota beer.

8 comments:

  1. "Journalists in Mansfield, Ohio are writing about Colorado beer, not Wisconsin beer, or Indiana beer, or Illinois beer, or Minnesota beer."

    Here's a Brewologist column about Leinenkugels:

    http://www.mansfieldnewsjournal.com/article/20101117/LIFESTYLE/11170306/Brewologist-Leinie-s-presents-comforting-holiday-brew

    Here's one about Goose Island:

    http://www.mansfieldnewsjournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2011101050305

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  2. Thank you for proving my point Anonymous. (Leinie's is owned by Miller and Goose Island has a partnership with Budweiser)

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  3. Aaarrrgahghhhhh!!!!
    I hate beer journalism written by journalists who 'like' beer. And calling yourself a 'beer snob' does not make you one. He did do a good job of pulling information off the brewery website though.
    FWIW - Leinies has now been owned by Miller for over 20yrs - anyone remember the returnables of Leinie Bock that actually had flavor?
    Cheers!

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  4. So what are you trying to say? If any given newspaper from some town of 50,000 has a column about beer and doesn't mention certain breweries then the breweries are at fault for not distributing to every podunk town whose copy editor decides to write about beer?

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  5. I've been to Mansfield before, and we had a big party and the beer of choice was Old Milwaukee. We had a blast, danced with the girls and then did a little drag racing with Nirvana blasting!

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  6. I've seen shitty beer writing in the new york times as well as in podunk newspapers. Being a journalist that likes beer doesn't mean you should be the person writing about it, and if you are a journalist then do just a little bit more research than going to the brewery website (maybe give them a call, or give the distributor a call, or talk to the retailer where you purchased the beer).

    That said - I went back and read some of the other Brewologist articles and the Hazed&Infused column was the weakest of them. Some were quite well done with information, insight and style.

    My hometown paper does a wine blurb every week and a beer blurb every once in a while. I'm just a frustrated with them as I am with most other mainstream media presentations about beer.

    I know I'm jaded, since I went through the beer-hunter phase of craft beer almost 20yrs ago and have long ago stopped being excited about every new beer I encounter...I'm a lot more selective now and enjoy each beer for what it is, beer. No longer do I try to identify and examine the why and how of nuance in beer. That's where the frustration comes in with most beer journalism - it seems to be all about the why and how of the product and not about the simple enjoyment of tasting it.
    Cheers.

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  7. What I got out of the article is the point that if Mansfield, OH, has a craft beer journalist then the "craft beer movement" is past the introduction phase and is into a different mode of reaching people. It is no longer that people haven't heard of anything other than Bud and Miller, but they are choosing what beer they want. And if you aren't there to be chosen, it isn't because no one is there buying craft beer, but rather that your beer isn't there to be chosen.

    Is that good or bad? That depends on your business plan, but your business plan may need to be changed to reflect that even Mansfield has their beer snobs now.

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  8. Maybe when you come back the Phoenix will be open and you can try some craft beer brewed in Mansfield

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