Interview with Jason Presser – Lizardville Beer Store and Whiskey Bar

Beer History

Jason’s mother always told him, “Find something you like and make a career out of it,” and that’s just what he did as the Manager of the Lizardville Beer and Whiskey Store, currently located in Bedford Heights.

Jason has spent most of his career working in the restaurant industry.  His job at Shula Steak 2 in Independence helped him enter the world of craft beer.  After work, Jason would head to the Independence Winking Lizard and grab a beer at the bar.  After drinking countless Abita Purple Hazes, one of the bartenders approached Jason about joining the Tour.  Anyone who is familiar with the Winking Lizard knows that each year you can register to join their World Tour of Beers.  Participants currently pay $10 to enter and must drink 100 different beers that are on tap or listed in the bottle menu at any Winking Lizard location.  Back when Jason joined the tour, only 100 beers were offered and each Tour player was required to drink one of each.  Jason figured why not, since he already drank at the Lizard each night.

As a newbie to the craft beer scene, Jason decided to conquer the task in alphabetical order.  He would order 3-4 beers each night before heading home. During that first year, he decided that about 80% of the beers on the tour were “gross.”  But for his last beer, he was served a Young’s Double Chocolate Stout and Jason began to change his mind about craft beer.  He immediately signed up for another tour since the year wasn’t even half over.  As he progressed through the tour again, his tastes began to transform.  The first
time Jason drank the Aventinus, he rated it a 2 out of 20 on the rating scale.  The second time he had it, which was a scant 6 months later, Jason scored it an 18 out of 20.  It took Jason 3 tours to begin to enjoy IPAs and another year for him to get a taste for sours.  And for those of you who know Jason, sour beers are his favorite.

Jason was hired to work in the Winking Lizard restaurant chain, and was then recruited to help open the Buckeye Beer Engine in Lakewood. As he worked in each of these restaurants his love, knowledge, and passion for beer continued to grow.  Finally, when the first Lizardville Beer and Whiskey store was set to open, Jason returned to open and run that first location.  When the second Lizardville location opens in Rocky River, Jason will be there to open and manage again.  *The Rocky River Lizardville is scheduled to open its doors on May 22.  Look for it in the old Donato’s location at Westwood Town Center on Lorain Road, just west of Westgate Shopping Center.

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

Jason doesn’t do a lot of research.  Because of his job at Lizardville, he mostly has knowledge of the beer that is offered here in Ohio and beers that are offered for him to purchase through the bar.  If the brewery is one that Jason has trust and faith in, he will definitely place an order.  If Jason is offered to purchase a beer that he has not heard of or doesn’t know that well, he will use Beer Advocate and Rate Beer to make a decision regarding the purchase.

For his personal beer collection, Jason doesn’t trade or purchase beer online.  He has an amazing collection at his fingertips working at Lizardville, so completes most of his purchases there.

Women in Craft Beer

Jason has found that the women who come into Lizardville, in general, have just as much knowledge about craft beer as the men do.  Sometimes, women are even the ones dragging their husbands and boyfriends into the store.  While Jason saw more women when he worked at Buckeye Beer Engine drinking craft beer, he believes that may be due to the fact that in his opinion, Lizardville is a Destination Place.  The Beer Engine is a place to grab a burger, fries, and a beer that West Siders frequently visit.  Lizardville is an all-night hang out, often full of people who have traveled just to go there, as there isn’t much within walking distance.

Gateways into Craft Beer

The Lizardville does not serve Bud Light or Miller Lite.  Jason, and the staff of Lizardville, feel that education is extremely important in order to help customers understand craft beer.  If someone states that they normally drink Miller Lite, Jason offers them a Kentucky Light, which is brewed by Kentucky Ale.  Even those this beer is a Kolsh, it resembles the ale that Miller Lite drinkers are used to tasting on their palate.   If Bud Light is the customer’s beer of choice, Jason offers a Weihenstephaner Original, which is a German-style Lager.  When I asked him how often people ask for these macro beers, Jason shocked me by stating that this occurs about once a day.

Kentucky Light is their #1 selling beer.  When I asked Jason if that bothered him, as it is more of a beer for those first getting started, he is actually happy to see those numbers.  He believes that, “if someone is willing to drink a Kentucky Light and not walk across the street [to the Bedford Winking Lizard], to grab a Miller, that is still a positive,”  and a victory for craft beer.

Craft Beer Boom

There are some beers that cause quite the stir in the craft beer industry when they are released.  Out of curiosity, I asked Jason about the duration that some of these beers lasted on the shelves.  Last year, I arrived at the newly-opened Lizardville around 4:15 PM on the day that KBS bottles were shelved.  There was no line and no one was near the bottles when I got there.  I was able to grab 4 bottles for myself, and not wanting to feel greedy, left at least a half dozen on the shelf.  This year, Lizardville received 2 cases.  All of the beer was gone within 3 hours.  When CBS was released at Lizardville, a line formed before the doors opened and all bottles were purchased by those people before they even hit the shelves.  Hopslam, which releases a decent amount of bottles, but is a much-hyped beer sent 33 cases to Lizardville and they were sold out in 2 weeks.

Jason’s Favorites

Jason’s favorite style of beer are sours.  He can’t decide upon his favorite beer because, “every time I have a new sour beer, it becomes my favorite.”  However, if he had to pick a
favorite brewery, it would be Jolly Pumpkin whose beers are  known for their sour endings.  His favorite sour breweries in no particular order are:

3 Fonteinen brewery, particularly the Oude Geuze and the Hommage

Cantillon

Orval

Jolly Pumpkin

 

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This Post was Written by Hop Bunny G

Hop Bunny G.

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