Back in December, Erie Brewing Company made a special road trip to Nashville from Pennsylvania to appear at the Science of Beer exhibit. I met Aubrey Lowther at the Adventure Science Center and learned a little about the brewery while sipping on some great samples of the company’s craft beer. Hoping to learn a little more about the brewery, I interviewed Mrs. Lowther to discuss the brewery’s medal-winning beer, to get more information on the brewery’s award-winning Most Unique Beer of 2010 and to look ahead to see what the future holds for the Erie Brewing Company.
Please tell me how you got into the beer industry.
– “I was working full-time for Abercrombie & Fitch Corporate Office in Columbus, Ohio. I started checking out new craft-beer bars with my friends and found that I enjoyed trying the latest and greatest beers. I started to take appreciation for ‘good’ beer and pairing different beers with different foods. My friends and I would always try to attend beer tastings and events around the Columbus area. I found that I had a strong love for craft beer and finding the perfect beer for my palate.”
How were you introduced to Erie Brewing Company? How did you get your start with the company?
– “In 2012, the brewery faced the chances of closing down due to financial issues. A family friend from Erie, PA had a small amount of stock in the company and was contacted about helping the brewery. He took the chance and decided to purchase the brewery in February 2012. From there, the brewery underwent a financial reconstruction and new ownership. As he began his role as Owner and GM, he had asked me if I would help at a Summer Ale Fest in Cleveland, Ohio because the rest of the staff was working Erie Brewing Company’s event, Beer on the Bay. I agreed to do so and found that I really enjoyed the beer business. I loved learning about different beers in the market and educating others about EBC’s portfolio and offerings.”
What is your official role with the brewery?
– “I am a Regional Sales Manager and in charge of the brewery’s social media pages (Facebook and Twitter), as well as updating the calendar on our official Website.”
I met you at the Science of Beer exhibit. Was this the first event at Adventure Science Center for your brewery to attend?
– “Yes, it was! I was pleased to be part of such a wonderful event and enjoyed sharing EBC brews with everyone who attended. I hope to attend next year’s Science of Beer event as well.”
Will Erie return to TN for more beer festivals and events?
– “It was such a fun night filled with people who actually cared about craft beer and trying new selections that they have never had before. I met so many wonderful people who shared the same passion for beer and most importantly, loved Erie Brewing Company! Most certainly, we will return to TN for several more beer fests this upcoming year. I have requested an updated list of fests for the 2015 year through Lipman Brothers and hope to attend as many as possible. Who doesn’t enjoy drinking beer and spreading the word about it?”
Your brewery is located in Pennsylvania. Is that the longest distance you’ve traveled to attend an event?
– “Yes, Tennessee is the furthest area that I have traveled for a beer event. However, we do distribute in the entire state of Florida. Our Regional Sales Manager in the South Region, Robbie, does several beer fests, dinners, events in Florida several times a year. We also attend the Great American Beer Fest each year in Denver, Colorado. Unfortunately, due to schedule conflicts, I have never been able to attend, but hope to in the near future.”
What territory do you cover?
– “I cover four states: Michigan, Ohio (Central and Southern), Northern Kentucky, as well as Tennessee.”
Please tell me a little about Derailed. I really enjoyed it.
– “Derailed Black Cherry Ale is one of my favorite beers that we make. It is so unique to the market and done so well. It was awarded 2010 Most Unique Beer at the Brewski Festival as well as a bronze medal at the Great American Beer Fest in 2011 in the Fruit Beer category. It is a Cherry Inspired Cream Ale with a sweet, tart cherry essence. It has a creamy smooth finish and is cherry blush in coloring. Being a Fruit Beer, it is not too overpowering and sweet and appeals to both genders. Derailed is also a fun beer to mix with other beers. For instance, I had a Tap Takeover in Mason, Ohio in December and we mixed Derailed with a Stout which created a chocolate cherry flavoring. People went crazy for it! It’s definitely a special beer and one to remember!”
As a dark-beer fan, I’d like to know if Erie makes year-round dark beers. If so, please tell me a little about them.
– “Our darkest year-round beer would be our flagship brew, Railbender Ale which is a Scottish Ale at 6.8 abv. We drive about 52 percent of sales with Railbender Ale. It is a gold medal winner at the Great American Beer Fest in 2009. It features a deep malt flavor, caramel sweetness lingering in a soft hop. It is Dark Amber in coloring.”
“As for our seasonal line-up, we have several dark beers: Oktoberfest, Ol’ Red Cease & Desist and our newest brew, Skipper’s Stout. Our Oktoberfest Lager has a roasted chocolate malt flavor and color. It has a smooth, clean, crisp finish at 7.8 abv. Ol’ Red Cease & Desist is one of our winter seasonals. It is a Wee Heavy Ale with powerful caramel malt flavor, finishing climatically with a smooth, warming sensation. It is deep red in coloring and 10.1 abv. It is sure to warm you up on a cold winter day!”
“Skipper’s Stout is our new winter seasonal brewed with three different varietals of coffee and crème brûlée. Our special coffee blend brings bold flavor, while the addition of chocolate malts and crème brûlée round this brew out, with a smooth and slightly sweet finish. This one is sure to wake you up from AM to PM!”
In your own words, can you tell me a little background information about Erie Brewing.
– “Erie Brewing Company was founded as a Hoppers Brewpub in 1993 in Erie’s historic Union Station. In 1999, Erie Brewing Company transitioned from a Brewpub to a full fledged microbrewery. The brewery moved from Union Station to its current production facility. At this time, production capacity was 6,100 barrels. From 2003-2007, Cardinal Equity Associates, a venture capital firm, gained majority of stock in the company. A major overhaul of brand image and management began.”
“Production capacity was increased and Erie Brewing Company began being distributed in other states such as NY, OH and MI. In 2010, several new tanks were added as well as a precision filtration system, Monobloc bottling line, and grain silo. Production capacity and distribution continued to increase. Finally, in 2012, Erie Brewing Company underwent a financial reconstruction as well as ownership change. Our management and sales team launched an initiative to improve current distribution relationships. Our focus is to streamline production and bottling in order to provide exceptional products and customer service. Today, we continue to strengthen our relationships with distribution as well as open new territories.”
What is your best-selling beer? Can you tell me a little about it?
– “Railbender Ale is our flagship beer and best-selling beer. It is a Scottish Style Ale and was awarded a bronze medal in 2008 and a gold medal in 2009 at the Great American Beer Fest in Denver, Colorado. It features a deep malt flavor, caramel sweetness lingering in a soft hop. It is Dark Amber in coloring and 6.8 abv.”
“Beer Story: Erie, Pennsylvania, the site where three sets of railroad track gauges met, was an important transportation hub in the mid-nineteenth century. Railbender Ale is named after the laborers who laid the railroad tracks. It is brewed with pride, strength and purity; symbolic of Erie’s historic railroads and their workers. Railbender is a strong Scottish Style Ale with astonishing drinkability. One try and you’ll want to ‘Bend the rules and ride the rails!'”
Please tell me a little about your current winter seasonal beer.
– “We have two current winter seasonal beers: Ol’ Red Cease & Desist and our newest brew to our line-up, Skipper’s Stout. Ol’ Red Cease & Desist is a Wee Heavy Ale with powerful caramel malt flavor, finishing climatically with a smooth warming sensation. It is deep red in coloring and 10.1 abv. It is sure to warm you up on a cold winter day!”
“Skipper’s Stout is brewed with three different varietals of coffee and crème brûlée. Our special coffee blend brings bold flavor, while the addition of chocolate malts and crème brûlée round this brew out, with a smooth and slightly sweet finish. This one is sure to wake you up from AM to PM!”
Is it possible for Tennesseans to purchase Erie’s beer? If so, where?
– “We distribute all of our beers through our wholesaler, Lipman Brothers in the state of Tennesee. They are located at 411 Great Circle Road in Nashville, TN. If you contact their direct line at (615) 244-2230, they can provide a list of accounts nearest you where Erie Brewing Company beers are sold. Some of the larger accounts that carry EBC brews are Harris Teeter and Frugal MacDoogal. Also, always be sure to request your favorite EBC brews at any account that has a Lipman Sales Representative. They will order beer upon request!”
Since I don’t live in PA, can you tell me a little about the beer trends you’ve noticed there?
– “Erie, PA is a little behind the trends, but you start to see a lot of new craft beers hitting the market. As a brewery, we have already created four new beers since ownership has changed in 2012. We are always looking for something new to share with our customers and started the Erie sERIEs which is done bi-monthly. Our brewmaster, Shawn Strickland, creates one-off beers to share exclusively in the brewery’s tasting room for customers. It has been a huge hit! If customers love the specialty brew, they can get a growler-to-go!”
Does PA have restrictive craft beer rules and laws? If so, have there been any recent laws passed to make it easier to brew, fill growlers, distribute, etc. there?
– “Pennsylvania has some of the strictest beer laws in place in the United States. Beer may only be purchased from a restaurant, bar, licensed beer store, or distributor. Beer distributors mainly sell cases and kegs of beer, not smaller volumes of beer such as six packs. Six and twelve packs, along with individual bottles such as 40 ounce or 24 ounce beers, are sold at bars, restaurants, and licensed retailers.”
“Under state law, you may buy up to two six-packs of beer for take-out at a time from a bar. No more. A license granted to a bar or restaurant permits the licensee to sell up to 192 fluid ounces of beer per purchase. For larger quantities, one must go to a beverage distributor which sells beer only by the case or keg. Beverage distributors may sell beer and malt liquor, but not wine or hard liquor. People under 21 may enter most beverage distributors without an adult, since most distributors also sell water, soda, ice, and some snack foods. They are subject to the rules of the individual establishment.”
Are there many year-round beer festivals or beer events in PA? What are some big ones you expect Erie to attend in 2015?
– “Our biggest event is Beer on the Bay which we host in Erie, PA each year. Last year was our best Beer on the Bay event that we have ever had with record attendance and several new EBC brews for our participants to enjoy! This year’s Beer on the Bay event will take place on Saturday, July 25, 2015. We hope to see you all there!”
What does 2015 bring for Erie? New events? New beers? Any new developments?
– “We have been working diligently as a company to rebrand Erie Brewing Company and completely change our packaging, logo, merchandise, glassware, etc.. It has been over a year and a half process and we have finally finished the bulk of all of our packaging. We went with a modern, bold and fresh new look that will stand out on shelves and in restaurants and bars. We have also changed our old wooden tap handle to a new laser cut medal handle. We will also be releasing a few new beers again this year and are currently working on a new IPA! We know that 2015 will be a wonderful year for Erie Brewing Company! Cheers!”