Company News

Penguin City Beer Prepares to ‘Zag’ with New Products

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Barely more than a year after bottling its first beer, Penguin City Brewing Co. is preparing to bring a second product to market, with others soon to follow.

“Everybody thought we were going to come out with an I.P.A. or something, and we thought, ‘We’re going to zag,’ “ said Mike Pontikos, brand manager for Penguin City.

Lost River, a hard seltzer, will be released in bars, stores and restaurants in mid-September.

Named for the water ride at the former Idora Park in Youngstown, Lost River will have a peach/ginger flavor, using peaches from White House Fruit Farm.

“It was a tight time frame because the peaches weren’t ready to be picked and then they were only going to be sold for a certain amount of time,” Pontikos said.

More beverages featuring products from White House are in the works. Since apples are available year round, one of those will probably be “something apple-ish,” he added.

In keeping with the river concept, Penguin City will donate $1 to the Friends of the Mahoning River, a nonprofit group that advocates for the improvement of the Mahoning River, for every case sold.

The announcement was made during a ribbon cutting ceremony held at the B&O Station to celebrate the opening of the brewery.

“Last year we were in the unknown,” said Aspasia Lyras, who co-owns the brewery with her husband Richard Bernacki.

Penguin City, which began in August 2018, originally brewed out of Paladin Brewery in Austintown. They brewed their first batch inside the B&O in May. 

“It’s still overwhelming,” Bernacki said. “Today is as overwhelming as any other day has been.”

“I almost can’t believe what we did,” Lyras added.

Today, Penguin City Beer can be found in 300 locations, mostly in Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana Counties, though it’s also sold as far away as Cleveland and Lorain, Lyras said.

Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown held the brewery up as an example of how important small businesses are to the city.

“Small business is how you grow your community and this is just a prime example of how we’re going to continue to grow our city and our community, with great ideas from our local talent.”

Next week, Penguin City will install an $80,000 canning line, though Lyras says they probably won’t discontinue bottles entirely.

“We have a small percentage of people who tell us they still like bottles, so we will be predominantly canning and still have a small batch of bottles,” she said.

As for more new products, in October Pontikos says they will begin brewing a beer of the month, which will be launched during a gathering held on the second Thursday of every month.

“It’s good for product testing to see if people like something, but as a very limited release,” he said.

And on Sept. 7, Penguin City will reach another milestone during the YSU Penguin football home opener, when it becomes the first locally brewed beer to be served at Stambaugh Stadium.

With so much going on, Bernacki says a big focus has been managing growth. At this time, he estimates they brew between 110 and 120 barrels a month.

“We’re not trying to go crazy and get in over our heads. We’re trying to stick within our capabilities and then grow from there,” he said.

Still, Bernacki and Lyras say now is no time to start coasting.

“I can’t say I’m comfortable,” Lyras explained. “I’m still in that mode of we have to keep building, building, building. But when I look back I can’t believe it.”

Pictured: At Penguin City’s ribbon cutting are Vickie Davanzo, city of Youngstown business development recruiter; Basia Adamczak, Seventh Ward councilwoman; Mike Pontikos Penguin City Brewing Co. brand manager; Penguin City co-owners Richard Bernacki and Aspasia Lyras; Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown; Brittany Revlock, YSU cheerleader; Pete the Penguin and Youngstown law director Jeff Limbian.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.