Updated: 2:10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011 | Posted: 2:09 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011

Yuengling is good news for local beer lovers, bar owners

Introduction has already generated 20 new jobs at Dayton distributor.


Yuengling is good news for local beer lovers, bar owners photo
Steve Whitaker loads cases of Yuengling beer into a distribution truck at Heidelberg Distributing on Leo Street. The upcoming arrival of Pennsylvania-native Yuengling beer to the Dayton market is highly anticipated by local beer lovers and business owners alike.

By Mark Fisher

Staff Writer

Southwest Ohio businesses that distribute and sell beer are hoping the arrival of the Pennsylvania-based Yuengling brand to the Dayton and Cincinnati markets will be a shot in the arm for their bottom line.

And there’s evidence their hopes will come true: The brand’s introduction into western Ohio already has generated 20 new jobs at its Dayton-based distributor, and the extent of customer enthusiasm and anticipation for the products of America’s oldest brewery has reached a level not seen since the introduction of Coors beers into Ohio three decades ago, local retailers say.

Several Dayton-area bars are jockeying to be the first to serve the draught versions of Yuengling Lager, Light Lager and Black & Tan and are planning to open early on Monday — by 6 a.m. in some cases — to be the first to slake the thirst of Yuengling enthusiasts.

The beers’ popularity already has pushed back the introduction of Yuengling (pronounced “Ying-Ling”) in bottles and cans to Dayton and Cincinnati markets by two weeks to Nov. 14, according to brewery officials and the brewery’s local distributor, Heidelberg Distributing Co.

The beer was introduced into the Cleveland and Columbus markets in early October, and the beer sold so well there that the brewery couldn’t keep up with demand while also gearing up for a planned Oct. 31 roll-out in southwest Ohio and Toledo. Brewery officials decided early last week to postpone the roll-out of cans and bottles until Nov. 14, while still planning to introduce the beer in draught form in local bars on Monday.

“We put in a pretty aggressive plan in northern Ohio, but the customer response was so overwhelming — in some cases triple what we expected — that it really backed us up,” said Pat Noone, business development manager for the privately held brewery.

Mif Frank, co-owner of Arrow Wine & Spirits’ Far Hills Avenue store, said Yuengling “is the most highly anticipated beer to arrive in this area — ever.”

Frank said the delayed rollout of cans and bottles forced him to cancel the Kettering Arrow store’s plans to open an hour early and host an all-day, drop-in beer tasting this Monday, but will likely reschedule the special event to Nov. 14.

He expects a crowd. “We’ve gotten calls almost daily asking about this beer for the last five years,” Frank said. Now that word has spread that the brand is on its way to southwest Ohio, “we get calls at least five times a day.”

Why the fuss?

Harry Schuhmacher — San Antonio-based beer industry analyst and publisher of Beer Business Daily, a daily newsletter covering the commercial beer industry — said Yuengling “is the fastest-growing beer company in the country” despite the fact that its beer is distributed in only 14 states. Its growth has been based more on its success in capturing market share in existing markets rather than rapid expansion into new states, Schuhmacher said.

Yuengling has carved out a niche in the market because its beers are a bit darker in color and more full-bodied in flavor than other domestic premium beers such as Budweiser, Miller and Coors, but is priced the same as those heavily advertised national brands, Schuhmacher said.

“It’s a great bridge beer between those domestic premium beers and craft beers” that are fuller-bodied and stronger in flavor, he said.

In the Dayton area, all three Yuengling beers available in Ohio — Lager, Light Lager and Black & Tan — will be released with state minimum prices of $5.89 a six-pack (bottles), $10.49 per 12-pack (cans), and $18.49 per 24-pack (cans). Those prices are comparable to the major “domestic premiums” of Bud, Miller and Coors.

After the brouhaha of the brand’s introduction fades, Yuengling will likely capture market share from those domestic premium brands, and to a lesser degree, from craft beer makers, Schuhmacher said.

But in the weeks immediately following the introduction of the brand, consumers curious about Yuengling will likely buy it alongside their regular brands, prompting an overall surge in beer sales, Schuhmacher said. Yuengling’s Noone agreed, saying the introduction of his company’s beer into a new market generally results in additional sales, not the cannibalizing of existing brands.

“We feel we’re making the beer sector healthier” economically, Noone said.

The industry could use a boost. Although craft beers — from brewers such as Samuel Adams, Great Lakes Brewing and Sierra Nevada — have shown steady sales growth for several years, the total volume of beer sold in the U.S. fell by 1.9 percent in 2010, according to data from the Beverage Information Group. That followed a 2.1 percent drop in 2009 and flat sales in 2008, according to the Beverage Information Group’s “Beer: 2011 State-of-the-Industry Report” published in September 2011.

Weaker domestic beer sales accounted for the sales decline: Among the top-selling 10 domestic beers, seven brands showed losses for the year, and domestic premium beer sales fell by 7.6 percent overall, the report said. And that affects the bottom line of bars, restaurants, carry-outs and beer distributors.

Heidelberg Distributing CEO Vail Miller Jr. said his company has been talking to Yuengling officials “for at least the last decade, pleading with them to come to Ohio,” and is using the introduction “to promote the entire beer category” to southwest Ohio consumers. The brewery is “looking to Ohio to provide the template for opening other states,” Miller said.

The company has added 20 new employees to help roll out the new beer brand in the Dayton and Cincinnati areas, Miller said. “We’ve added extra drivers, trucks, warehouse workers and management,” he said.

It will be “all hands on deck” for Heidelberg employees Monday to deliver the kegs of draught Yuengling to bars, taverns, restaurants and other on-premise consumption sites, and the rollout will be repeated two weeks later for retail outlets that sell Yuengling in cans and bottles, Miller said.

The Dublin Pub in Dayton and Archer’s Tavern in Centerville are among several Dayton-area bars that are planning early-morning celebrations of Yuengling’s arrival on Monday.


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