Great Lakes Brewing Co. is protecting its turf. With fellow award-winning — and big — craft breweries Deschutes and New Belgium starting to distribute in Ohio over the last several months, the Cleveland brewery has gone on the offensive with a statewide advertising campaign designed to remind beer drinkers of its Ohio roots.
The campaign carries the slogan: “We’re proud to brew in the Buckeye State. (We’d yell ‘O-H’ but we don’t want you to spill your beer.)”
The print advertisement (see it above) has appeared in the Akron Beacon Journal and other newspapers.
“We really do feel having the new breweries introduced here is good for craft, but our job is to keep selling our beer,” Great Lakes brewer Luke Purcell said about the campaign.
Great Lakes, known for making such favorites at Christmas Ale, Burning River Pale Ale, Blackout Stout and Dortmunder Gold, wants to remind Ohioans that “we’re in your backyard,” he said.
The brewery, founded in 1988, is the oldest craft brewery in Ohio. It’s also the largest Ohio-based craft operation. Boston-based Samuel Adams runs a bigger craft brewery in Cincinnati.
Several brewers and retailers have said that Deschutes and New Belgium pose competition for Great Lakes unlike other smaller craft breweries that have moved into the state. New Belgium and Deschutes are the third- and fifth-largest craft brewers in the U.S. and their names and brands — just like Great Lakes — carry weight with many craft beer drinkers.
Deschutes Black Butte Porter is considered the nation’s top-selling craft porter, while Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald is second.
And New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale is a sought-after brand.
Some craft drinkers will likely shift their attention away from Great Lakes — at least in the short term — to sample the new offerings available here. Craft drinkers aren’t exactly known for their loyalty.
“We’re the transfer kid,” Deschutes brand ambassador Lauranne “Lou” Crooks said at a recent appearance in Akron. “Everyone wants to know who we are. Finding out where our accent is from. Where’d he get that dark scar from thing. Some people have heard of us. Some people haven’t.”
Asked whether Deschutes will steal any market share from Great Lakes — both breweries offer similar portfolios — she responded: “I think we will but in a positive way” in terms of growing the overall craft segment.
Great Lakes has a big and loyal following in the state already, Purcell said. But he also noted that it seems that the farther you move away from Cleveland the “cooler we are.”
It’s the they’ve-gotten-so-popular-and-big-I-don’t-like-them-anymore mentality. Fat Head’s Brewery general manager Ted Lipovan has heard people make those comments and thinks that attitude is silly.
“We’re all standing on Great Lakes’ shoulders,” he said, referring to the fact that the brewery paved the way for every other craft brewer in the state.