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Peach Weekender

PEACH WEEKENDER | RAISE A GLASS

UT’s ‘beer professor’: onward, upward for craft

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    BLade illustration by Tom Fisher

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    Neil Reid, aka the ‘beer professor’ at UT.

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I met Neil Reid, the “beer professor,” for a pint last week at the Local, a bar in Holland that only serves craft beer.

If you want a Bud or a Coors Light, it’s the wrong bar for you. 

So, naturally, our talk focused on the future growth of craft beer.

“I’m not sure I know where the limits are for growth,” Reid said. “Demographics are working in favor of craft beer. Because who drinks craft beer? It tends to be younger people. Uncle Joe is a Budweiser drinker, Miller Lite — you’ll probably never convince him to even try a Sam Adams, right?

“Demographics for macro beers, a lot of that is older drinkers. They’re going to die off. Who’s coming up to replace them? The new 18 and 19-year-olds when they hit 21, what are they going to drink? That’s the key. If they overwhelming or increasingly choose craft over macro, [that’s bad news for macro].”

Reid is a University of Toledo professor of geography and planning and director of the Jack Ford Urban Affairs Center at UT. His professional and personal passions have found common ground: He studies, writes, and lectures about the beer industry, and he is a craft beer enthusiast. His blog, “The Beer Professor: Musings on Beer,” can be found at thebeerprofessor.com.

According to the Brewers Association, craft beer made up 19 percent of beer sales in 2014. Reid, who’s worked at UT since 1991, says he sees that number growing as high as 45 percent in the next 25 years.

“I just think this whole age structure thing is going to work in favor of the craft beer industry,” he said. “What choices are the next generation going to make? That’s going to answer that question. If higher percentages of those go for craft — and it doesn’t have to be everyone. It just has to be more than the people they’re replacing.”

If backed into a corner, will Big Beer make better tasting products?

“They can’t because they’re inflexible,” Reid said. “They’re based on a mass production system. You’ve seen it with Blue Moon and Shock Top [as they] try to pull the wool over our eyes. They do that to a certain extent, but craft beer drinkers aren’t going to be fooled by that.

“As soon as Goose Island got taken over by Anheuser-Busch, [there was this] ‘I’m never going to drink that again,’ which is kind of ridiculous, but that was the response. The craft beer drinker is too well educated.”

Locally, Reid says the Toledo craft brewers are catching up to Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati. Who will join the likes of Maumee Bay, Black Cloister, Great Black Swamp, and Black Frog?

“I guess the question for Toledo is, how much growth is there going to be?” he said. “I think there’s potential — just who’s going to do it? The story is the classic story: There’s two guys in a garage or a basement homebrewing and then they go commercial. Who’s going to be the next homebrewer to make the leap?”

Homebrewing has been the incubator for the majority of craft beer growth, and Toledo is no different. Taking that next step, however isn’t so easy.

“It’s a big commitment,” Reid said. “It’s fun to homebrew. You don’t need any business sense to homebrew.”

Lucas Co. Fair homebrewing competition

The Lucas Co. Fair will host a homebrewing competition July 14 at the fairgrounds, 1406 Key St., Maumee. The public can view the judging, which begins at 7 p.m. in the green building on the fairgrounds. Entries can be dropped off at the green building between 10 a.m to 6 p.m. July 13 or from 10 to 2 on July 14. Competitors must be 21 to enter and the entry fee is $20 for a weekly fair pass. Each category will have a winner, as well as an overall best of show named on July 15 at an awards ceremony and tasting.

For more information, go to lucascountyfair.com/​senior-fair.

Homebrewers fare well in regionals

Glass City Mashers club members Scot Yarnell, John Mulligan, Shannon Fink, and Keefe Snyder placed in the regionals of the National Homebrewers Association annual competition.

Yarnell of Toledo won the specialty beer category in the Austin region. In the Zanesville, Ohio, region, Mulligan of Swanton placed second in the Belgian strong ale category and Fink of Sylvania and Snyder of Toledo placed third in the fruit beer and traditional mead categories, respectively.

Raise a Glass is a craft beer column covering what’s brewing in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan. It appears in The Blade’s Peach Weekender on the last Thursday of every month.

Contact Bob Cunningham at bcunningham@theblade.com or 419-724-6506.

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