Penguin City Beer Introduces Simply Slavic Tribute Label

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — For one month beginning Wednesday, customers purchasing a six-pack of Penguin City Beer may notice something different about the label.

Bottles of Penguin City Beer will feature a limited-edition label honoring the Simply Slavic Heritage Festival on June 14 and 15 on Federal Plaza East downtown. It’s the first so-called “tribute label” the company is doing and will be featured on 20,000 bottles for the month leading up to the Simply Slavic festival, said co-owner Aspasia Lyras.

“All the bars, restaurants, grocery stores will carry this label,” Lyras said. “And this will be it. We will only do this design once.”

Lyras and her husband, Penguin City co-owner Richard Bernacki, wanted to launch the tribute labels with the festival because they both have Slavic heritage — Bernacki is Polish and Lyras has Croatian blood.

Designed by Michael Pontikos, a professor at Youngstown State University and marketing representative for Penguin City, and Ben Toomey, one of Pontikos’ students, the Simply Slavic label incorporates the colors of the festival’s logo into the Penguin City design, Pontikos said. The side of the label has the Simply Slavic logo and event date, as well as information about the event.

Michael Pontikos and Aspasia Lyras display the bottle with Simply Slavic tribute label.

Future tribute labels will be used sparingly to maintain their novelty, and will highlight events, individuals, landmarks or other notable things associated with the Youngstown area. As more labels are created, Pontikos said he hopes they will become collectables among customers and Youngstown residents.

Aundrea Cika Heschmeyer, founder and marketing chairwoman for Simply Slavic, said the organization is honored to be the first Penguin City tribute label.

“Richard, Aspasia and the whole Penguin City Brewing Co. team have really impressed us,” Heschmeyer said. “In a short amount of time, these folks have demonstrated how committed they are to this community. It obviously means a lot to them [to] get out there and try to make a difference.”

Business has increased steadily for Penguin City since starting distribution in August 2018. On average, Penguin City brews about 120 barrels monthly of its light ale, doubling production from 60 barrels in January, Bernacki said. With 126 barrels brewed in April, he expects that number to continue to increase.

After months of preparation since moving into the B&O Station, Penguin City expects its long-awaited first day of brewing to be Thursday or Friday of this week, he said. At the beginning of the year, the company was just getting started in the space formerly occupied by the Rust Belt Brewing Co. and has since been upgrading equipment there in preparation to start brewing.

Up until this point, Penguin City Beer was brewed at Paladin Brewing Co. in Austintown. Bernacki said they will likely continue brewing there as well as at the B&O. With both breweries running at capacity, he said he would like to eventually reach 400 barrels monthly.

“That would be great,” he said. “We could add jobs.”

Penguin City currently employs 10, with five in promotions and five on staff, Lyras said, “and we may be adding two more.”

Bottle sales have “easily doubled, possibly tripled” since January, Bernacki said. “We’re selling about 500 cases per month.” Keg sales still make up a larger percentage of commercial sales, he added.

Since reaching its 100th commercial customer in January, Penguin City is now available in more than 200 locations, including restaurants, bars and retail locations, such as grocery stores. The company has displays in various Save A Lot and Sparkle Markets stores, as well as Giant Eagle stores in Boardman, Poland, Liberty and Niles, Lyras said.

Another change the company is weighing is whether to transition fully to cans, Lyras said. While customers are of two minds on the subject, she said canning is easier, requires less materials and creates less waste for recycling.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.