Cincinnati is taking over Cleveland -- at least, one of the Queen City’s most popular breweries is.
Rhinegeist will start selling its beers in the Cleveland, Canton and Akron markets next week, making the Over-the-Rhine brewery available in every major market in Ohio. The brewery will partner with House of LaRose to distribute Rhinegeist products in the northeastern portion of the state.
“Cleveland is a great craft beer town, and what a great time to go there, with what’s going on." said Bryant Goulding, Rhinegeist co-founder and vice president of sales, referring to the sports success of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Indians. “It’s fun to be gearing up for a city where that fever is.”
This launch follows Rhinegeist adding distribution in Dayton within the first year of opening, as well as its expansion to Columbus in 2015. Rhinegeist also distributes Cidergeist in Massachusetts and distribute its beers and cider in Kentucky.
Initial plans in the northeast market call for three weeks of draft-only beers. Package sales of all canned beers will follow later this month, including year-round beers such as Truth and Cougar, as well as the seasonal brands like Streaker.
“We’ve found launching draft first is a best practice,” Goulding said. “We launched draft only in Columbus for the first few months and implemented the same strategy in Cleveland.
“When you win over the hearts and minds of bar managers, they get excited, and it helps get the word out,” he said. “Getting the word out from the shelf is tougher. This is a very human business.”
House of LaRose currently distributes Budweiser, Alaskan Brewing Co, Breckenridge, Kona and Blue Point Brewing Co. products in northeast Ohio, among others. It also distributes some imports, such as Bass, Beck’s, Hoegaarden and Leffe beers, as well as wine and some non-alcoholic beverages.
Both parties are looking forward to working together.
“We knew we would need to find the right partner if we weren’t going to do it ourselves. The House of LaRose is a force in the Cleveland and Akron market and shares our commitment to customer service and building the Ohio craft beer market,” Goulding said. “Jim LaRose was in here in our first year and took a tour of the facility. This is our first major city where we’re working with a wholesaler, and I feel they’ve understood us from the early days.”
“We are excited to have the opportunity to distribute Rhinegeist. Cleveland and Akron have been highly anticipating Rhinegeist’s arrival and will soon taste and know what the excitement is about,” said LaRose, president and chief operating officer of the House of LaRose.
Following the statewide expansion, what does the future hold for Rhinegeist? Goulding said they will start planning that after the Cleveland launch is complete.
“We don’t have goals of global domination,” he said. “We’re going to launch and then plan our next year. Our growth has been fantastic, and we’re still seeing steady growth in Cincinnati.
"We have a great home market, so we don’t need to add five states at a time,” he added. “We want to continue to have fun from the tap down to the guys making the beer.”