Decisions in Altering Your Ale Portfolio

Last summer, Rhinegeist’s Cheetah Lager debuted in cans. The Cincinnati, Ohio brewery opted for a switch from the now-retired Cougar when the staff found itself reaching less and less for the Blonde Ale, and saw customers following suit.

“Internally, we were craving something a bit more crisp and crushable,” said Matt Steinke, Director of Sales.

Rhinegeist always knew it was going to put Cheetah in cans, and so perfecting it took a couple of years. Cheetah takes a simplistic approach, an easy drinking Lager with hints of malt and subtle notes of citrus.

“When we started kicking draft-only batches out, the beer was just disappearing,” Steinke said.

Rhinegeist relied on its Cougar fanbase to appreciate the new creation.

Steinke added, “We also felt that we had a strong consumer base in Cougar that would inherently reach for Cheetah and enjoy it as much as we did.”

The warm weather “pure, crisp, clean” beer also has a limited edition citrus-infused version, the Lemon Lime Cheetah.

Steinke said the growing popularity of Lagers prompted the decision to incorporate Cheetah into the lineup.

“There was certainly enough data showing growth in the Import Mexican Lager space that demonstrated consumer habits were trending towards unique Lagers,” he said. “We also have a bunch of great brewers here that we knew were capable of making a delicious Lager, so the challenge simply excited us, and it quickly became a passion project.”

Rhinegeist wasn’t daunted about the extra time needed to brew a Lager, because the large production facility allowed the time and space for it.

“Lagers don’t hide anything,” said Cole Hackbarth, Director of Brewery Operations. “You have to brew a nuanced recipe with a well controlled fermentation to get clean, crisp Lager character, so you just have to wait until the yeast is done and plan for the extra time it needs.

“That said, our production schedule is used to beers that take longer than usual, be it Sours, fruit beers, or IPAs with multiple hop additions, so adding in a Lager wasn’t too disruptive. We also work very hard to stay ahead on production capacity so that we can react to new innovation without turning production on its head.”

Paste Magazine reviewed Cheetah in a blind tasting as “pretty close to the platonic ideal for an American-style light Lager,” and it snagged the No. 11 spot in Paste’s rankings of 102 craft lagers from around the States in 2019, the only Ohio beer to land in the Top 30.

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