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With Limited-Edition Beers, Ohio Craft Brewers Tap Into Fear Of Missing Out

Masthead Brewing Co.

On a quiet Saturday morning at Rozi's wine and beer shop in Lakewood, manager Bill Barak straightens up after a Friday night beer tasting.

"Local breweries are the ones that are taking over your shelf space and taking over everything that we have to offer,” Barak said. “You can't keep up. It's crazy right now.”

The craft beer scene is thriving in Northeast Ohio, and that’s forcing many local breweries to find new ways to stand out. While most sell their brews at beer stores and local groceries, a recent trend finds some selling limited edition brews from behind the bar. 

In Ohio City at Platform Brewery it's 10 a.m., but it looks like happy hour as patrons show up for a new barrel-aged beer. This one, however, you can only purchase at the bar.

Platform is kicking off its Can Collective and Mike from Parma was first in line.

"It's a limited edition club, every month you get a different type of beer,” Mike says. “You are guaranteed to get a four pack so you don't have to worry about missing out on it. It's well worth the price. It's like the difference between going to the movies in the theater and watching the movies at home. Most movies I can sit and watch at home it's no big deal, but sometimes there's something you just want to see in the theater.”

By producing small-batch, high-end beers craft brewers create demand for exclusive offerings with a very limited supply. Beer lovers are responding. These “FOMO” (Fear of Missing Out) beers go fast. Oftentimes they're gone before getting the chance to hit store shelves.

At 11:30 a.m. that same Saturday, a few miles away at Masthead Brewery, a line snakes along Superior Avenue. Beer lovers hope to purchase the latest New England IPA, brewed for Masthead's one year anniversary.

Phil from Mentor waits patiently.

"I drove from Trumbull County, it was about an hour. For some beers! You can only get 'em once, and then they're gone," he said.

Inside, Masthead head brewer Mike Pelachaty is selling Masthead's One Trick Pony hazy New England IPA.

"I kinda thought there'd be a line. I didn't think the line was going to wrap around the block," Pelechaty says.

It's limited, expensive, and gone in less than an hour and a half – all 80 cases of it.

"One of the biggest selling points of craft beer is the novelty,” Pelechaty says. “People don't drink craft beer to have the same thing every day. They want to have a new experience. They want to experience new flavors and that is a big part of why people are lining up for this.”

Justin Hemminger is with the Ohio Craft Brewers Association and in Cleveland for the group's annual conference this week.

"The trend toward limited release, only at the brewery, get-it-while-you-can-brew has really taken off with the growth in the industry,” Hemminger says. “It's always been a competitive field, but as there are more and more craft breweries in the space, you have to differentiate yourself one way or another.”

Driving the demand is the fact that the local craft beer community is very active on social media. Platform co-founder Justin Carson knows it's essential to get the word out.

"To be connected from a social media perspective and know that you're connected to what events are happening, what beers are being released and then physically have something that's tangible that comes out of that, that's a total experience,” Carson says. “It's a great tool for us to let people know what we are doing.”

With Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and beer apps like Untappd, those in the craft beer community are rating, sharing and alerting each other to the latest FOMO beer on the scene.

Heather from Amherst arrived early at Masthead with 20 of her friends after seeing the announcement online.

"We have a weird beer fraternity," she said. "As you can see this is the place to be today. Actually, I feel bad, because some of them out there may not get it." 

Roger from Lyndhurst got to Platform early for his FOMO beer and admits that as a craft beer lover in Northeast Ohio, it's a constant struggle to sample the latest and greatest brew.

"I fear of missing out on drinking every beer I've never drank,” Roger says. “So, you know, that's how it is.”