Penguin City Expands Distribution to Pennsylvania

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Penguin City Brewing Co. is now delivering to western Pennsylvania.

On Thursday, the local brewer made its first delivery of 160 cases of Penguin City Beer and Penguin City Light to Erme’s Distributing Co., Hermitage. Penguin City originally met with Erme’s back in January and signed a contract.

“This is a huge moment here at Penguin,” said Aspasia Lyras-Bernacki, co-owner of Penguin City. “We have worked extremely hard for the past two years to build our brand here in the Youngstown area and now it’s time to start reaching other markets and western Pa is a perfect start.”

Penguin City Beer will be distributed throughout Mercer, Lawrence, Crawford, Venango and Clarion counties. The company looks to eventually distribute its other varieties to the area, including its American Pale Ale.

With the number of individuals commuting into the Youngstown area to work or attend Youngstown State University, “I feel like there’s a lot of crossover from western PA into our area,” Lyras-Bernacki says. Pennsylvania residents familiar with the brand have been reaching out to Penguin City asking when it would be coming to the commonwealth “probably more than any other area,” she says.

Bob Mentrek, Erme’s general manager, agrees and says he’s received inquiries from customers about Penguin City as well.

“There’s a lot of people asking about it. It has some good buzz and social media awareness,” Mentrek says. “We’re really excited about the brand. We’ve been hearing a lot of good things about what they’re doing with their expansion and what they’re doing to help the city of Youngstown.”

The shipment comprises pretty much what Erme’s presold, Mentrek says. And as soon as it starts being distributed to customers, “we’ll be placing another order here pretty quick.” Mentrek expects most sales to be on premises, but notes as Pennsylvania starts to ease COVID-19 restrictions for restaurants and bars, that will help with sales.

In 2017, legislation signed by Gov. Tom Wolf allowed distributors to sell six-packs and growlers. Until then, they were mostly limited to selling cases and kegs. Those changes also allowed grocery stores and other convenience stores to sell beer.

That helps introduce new brands to beer drinkers in western Pennsylvania, he says.

“It really helps with trial, where people can take a six-pack and try it without dishing out cash for a whole case of beer,” he says. “I just hope people respond to it very well. We’re very proud to have it as part of our portfolio.”

From here, Penguin City looks to expand strategically without stretching too far too fast, Lyras-Bernacki says. With the new distribution areas, the company will need to hire people to go into Pennsylvania and work with the distribution company to help promote the beer, she says.

She believes there is a market for Penguin City as far as Allegheny County and Pittsburgh, she notes, but first the company will explore other parts of Ohio, as well as West Virginia.

“We’re getting a lot of demand in Cleveland and Columbus, so we want to start looking into that area,” she says. “West Virginia will likely happen in June.”

With the $3.7 million expansion project at the former Republic warehouse set to get underway in the coming weeks, getting the new system up and running is key to serving these new markets, she notes.

“You never want to run out. You can’t run out once you go into that market,” she says.

The brewery will include a 20-barrel brew house and 60-barrel fermenters that, when operating at capacity, can brew more than 6,000 barrels of beer annually depending on the process, says Richard Bernacki, co-owner.

This week, the city’s Design Review Committee approved façade and landscape renovations for the new home of Penguin City at the corner of Andrews Avenue and East Federal Street. Renovation plans for the building include the brewery, as well as a taproom, restaurant, distribution operation and community event center. Dope Winery & Cider will also operate out of the building.

Pictured: A worker unloads pallets of Penguin City Beer from a delivery truck into the warehouse at Erme’s Distributing Co. in Hermitage, Pa.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.