Interview with Bill Barak – Rozi’s Wine House

Beer History

Bill’s first foray into craft beer came as a result of a seemingly unfortunate event.  After being laid off from Ford in 2008, when many plants were laying off employees and shutting down, Bill took seasonal work at Rozi’s helping out during the Christmas gift basket rush.  After Christmas, the manager, Corey Rossen, offered Bill a more permanent position.

While Bill had bartended prior to working at Rozi’s, his knowledge of craft beer was slim to none.  The bar he had worked at served only domestics, like Budweiser, Miller, and Coors.  Corey needed to fix that in a hurry.  Bill’s job would require him to have extensive knowledge of both the beer and wine available at Rozi’s so that he could match customers with beverages they would enjoy.  Bill used to be sent home each night with homework.  Corey would put together a 6-pack of various bottles and Bill would have to drink them.  By doing this, Bill quickly learned to distinguish between styles.

Bill also visited beer websites like Beer Advocate and, as well as following a local beer blogger, Bobby Likes Beer.

Research and Keeping Up in the Ever-Expanding Craft Beer Industry

To stay current, Bill continues to utilize Beer Advocate and Rate Beer to do research.  More importantly though, he interacts with all of the beer representatives who enter Rozi’s on a weekly basis.  Through these reps, he is able to get news directly from the breweries as to new products, releases, and more.

Women in Craft Beer

I asked Bill about the women who come into Rozi’s looking for beer.  I’m always curious to know how people in the industry view women and thier knowledge of craft beer.  When Bill started in 2008, craft beer wasn’t nearly the booming industry as it is now. As the craft beer industry continues to grow, Bill sees more women coming in to purchase beer for their husbands and boyfriends, but also more importantly, beer for themselves.   On average, he would guess that 60-70% of the women shopping at Rozi’s have a good understanding of beer styles, breweries, and specific beers they are interested in purchasing.  I loved hearing this fact!

Gateways into Craft Beer

Bill’s gateway into craft beer was New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk.  This was the first craft beer that Bill truly enjoyed.

As a gateway for others, he almost always recommends Victory’s Prima Pils.  Obviously, by the name, this is a pilsner and would be a great choice for a Bud Light drinker.  Bill also suggested any of the Kolsch style of beers for those who prefer Miller Lite.

Rozi’s recently added a bar with 8 rotating tap handles. IPAs are by far the best selling beers for shoppers as they peruse the aisles or just sit on the patio and enjoy the weather.  Stouts are the next most popular, followed closely by session beers.  The tap list is constantly changing and sample size pours are available for purchase.

Craft Beer Boom

Since Bill began working at Rozi’s in 2008, the craft beer industry has exploded.  Bill specifically mentioned how special releases have been affected by the boom.  Even 4 years ago, when Bell’s Hopslam was release,d customers would be able to find it on shelves for weeks and possibly even months after bottles arrived at the stores.  Now people are contacting Rozi’s before Hopslam has even been officially released to reserve bottles or request to purchases cases.  The same goes for all special releases.  Nothing has necessarily changed with the beers or the breweries, there are simply more people who are into craft beer and are knowledgeable about special releases.  Bill has also seen the number of breweries increase and the reach of breweries expand in the recent past.  Ohio just began selling Sixpoint beers, a brewery from New York, and Ballast Point beers, a brewery from San Diego.

Single bottles also seem to be the new rage for beer store owners.  People seem to be much more willing to purchase one bottle of beer and create a unique 6-pack than to buy a regular 6-pack with 6 of the same beers, especially if they aren’t familiar with the beer or brewery.

Bill’s Favorites

Founders Breakfast Stout is on the current top 3 of Bill’s favorite beers.  While this list is continuously changing, Bill also added Columbus Brewing’s Bodhi, which is a well-balanced DIPA and Jolly Pumpkin’s La Roja.  As Bill is a fan of sours, Jolly Pumpkin beers are usually in his top 3.


*Rozi’s Wine House is located in Lakewood, Ohio.  This is one of the best go-to places in the Cleveland area to purchase single bottles, in my opinion.

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This Post was Written by Hop Bunny G

Hop Bunny G.

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