Logoed beer glasses are a source of pride for brewers, an invitation to steal for some patrons

And it's costing beer makers thousands a year
Liz Engel | WCPO contributor
7:00 AM, Apr 24, 2017
2 hours ago
CINCINNATI -- It may seem harmless, tucking that branded beer glass
into a purse, pocket or jacket.
But, over time, such petty theft adds up, local craft breweries say.
Misguided souvenir collecting can amount to thousands of dollars in
losses for the brewer each year.
It's certainly not a new problem -- Rhinegeist, for example, was short
300 pint glasses after its grand opening in 2013, according to reports
at the time -- and one not isolated only to craft breweries.
(Rhinegeist declined to comment for this story.)
"I'm sure if you talk to any bar owner, you're going to hear almost
the same exact story," said Mike Stuart, MadTree Brewing's director of
people and social strategy.
Most chalk it up to a marketing expense.
"We like the idea of people drinking out of a glass with our logo on
it," said Scott LaFollette, owner of Blank Slate Brewing.
But the losses can add up, and the problem is tough to counter.
Brewery owners do try. They offer glasses for sale -- often at
razor-thin margins -- bus tables and train bar staff to keep a
watchful eye, but those efforts aren't always successful.
Rivertown is removing its branded beer glasses after losing too many
to theft.
That's why Rivertown has removed the biggest temptation: You won't
find any branded beer glasses behind the bar there. It may be a simple
change, but it's arguably among the most drastic a brewery can take
without resorting to price increases, pat-down searches at exits or
installing ink-exploding security tags. (Bars in the U.K. have done
"Theft is definitely a real thing that happens," said Lindsey Roeper,
dream facilitator at Rivertown Brewing. "It's a fact that when some
people see a nice logo on a glass, they could be more inclined to grab
it and take it home.
"It is not something we previously tracked very closely in our
Lockland facility, but given the volume that we were going to do in
Monroe (there's a capability there to exceed 150,000 barrels a year),
we really wanted to eliminate that possibility."
The move has kept glass theft down. Branded pints are still sold for
$5 at the onsite gift shop, and they are included in the cost of a
brewery tour, which, in Monroe, will be offered starting April 13, but
it hasn't stopped people from swiping other items, Roeper said --
T-shirts, salt shakers, even wooden clipboards that list the brewery's
beers on tap.
"People try to get their hands on all kinds of things," she said.
"There really isn't too much we can do, unless we put trackers on
glasses or hire somebody specifically to make sure purses and jackets
are being checked, and we don't want anybody to have that experience.
For us, it's about asking our guests to be respectful. While you might
think it's nothing, every little bit counts when you're running a
small business."
At MadTree, the problem has worsened with the opening of 2.0, the
brewery's new $18 million taproom in Oakley; the space is much larger
than MadTree's original Columbia Township location.
Stuart said roughly 20 glasses are stolen per weeknight and 40 each
Friday and Saturday. The brewery is logging north of $10,000 per year
in pint-glass losses alone, he said.
"There's definitely real cost there," he said.
MadTree purposely buys more expensive glassware, too, he said. Those
glasses are specifically designed to help enhance the flavor and aroma
of its beer, with special laser etchings on the bottom that unlock
"Right now, the losses are just part of our overhead," he said. "But
if we're suddenly reordering a lot more quickly and in much greater
quantities, we'd have to change our pricing structure to reflect
Blank Slate's LaFollette said it's a minor annoyance, largely because,
"I have 50 other things a day that I'm having to deal with. I'm having
to run every aspect of the operation."
Between breakage and theft, Blank Slate's out around $1,000 worth of
glassware a year, he said.
"We are a smaller place, so it's not as easy to steal here," he said.
"But it does aggravate me every time I have to order more.
"It's disappointing when people feel compelled to steal glassware from
you," he added. "Especially when you're a small business struggling
every day to get by."
Some proprietors figure, if you can't beat it, embrace it. At
Bakersfield OTR, for example, beer is served from a signature glass
boot. About two years ago, Joe Lanni, co-founder of Thunderdome
Restaurant Group, which operates the eatery, said Bakersfield was
losing on average 75-100 boots a month. So it decided to hold a "boot
amnesty night," where people could bring back the wares they had
stolen for a reward -- swag, prizes, etc.
The effort wasn't entirely successful.
"We did get a few back, but overall, there weren't too many people who
wanted to return them," Lanni said via email. "We eventually decided
this was a cost of doing business and a cool way of marketing
ourselves. The boots had come to uniquely represent Bakersfield here
in town. If people had these in their home, hopefully it would spark a
conversation of some sort."
Unfortunately, their supplier recently discontinued the boot, so
Bakersfield is temporarily out of stock. But don't fret.
"We have sourced another supplier and hope to be back to having boots
available for theft sometime this spring," Lanni said.
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