Addressing around 200 people who gathered for the launch of her new Rhythm Unfiltered Lager Craft Beer at Vanity on Temple Street Saturday, Alisha Bowens-Mercado triumphantly raised her glass of Rhythm, promising to bring her nascent beer company to a “completely different level.”
Bowens-Mercado’s journey from family construction company manager to professional Latin dance school owner to the first African American woman beer company owner in Connecticut was celebrated by family, friends and many in the craft beer community, as well as representatives from city and state government responsible for supporting new businesses and economic development in the region.
Speaking briefly before the beer launch crowd was Lindy Lee Gold of the state Department of Economic and Community Development. Gold’s father, Marvin Gold, helped launch the family business of Bowen-Mercado’s father decades ago. Gold noted the importance of start-ups and new small business ventures: “It’s small business that creates jobs… more than just entrepreneurs — serial entrepreneurs — and Alisa is one of them. She has a magic touch” said Gold.
Among those gathered were many who have contributed in varying degrees to the success of Rhythm Brewing Company’s launch. Engineer and product designer Alex Murdoch — who designed the acrylic, laser-engraved beer tap handle and works part-time out of the nonprofit MakeHaven, a workshop space for aspiring entrepreneurs — said the transparent handle bears the company logo and is designed to reflect light along its clean edges.
Elinor Slomba, CEO and founder of Verge Arts Group and implementation manager for the entrepreneur-supporting Elm City Innovation Collaborative (under the auspices of CTNext’s Innovation Places program), has been working with Bowens-Mercado to add value to her flagship product through the local maker community and by positioning the business in creative ways in the market place.
Slomba said she has designed a way of introducing the Rhythm Brewing Company brand throughout the state through a Rhythm Party Package application process. The process will help select venues for a ten-stop party tour for the signature craft beer.
Strategic marketing goes a long way in supporting new products and businesses, but ultimately, it is the product or service itself, that will most likely determine company success. Saturday’s celebration, which presented the first public tasting of Rhythm beer, owed its success to the highly drinkable lager, according to an unscientific, random sampling of launch attendees.
Monica Arroyo, a Puerto Ricans United (PRU) board member who took in the launch action from an upper-level tier of the elaborately designed entertainment and restaurant venue, sat with other board members of the PRU organization as she sipped her lager.
“It’s very light and the flavor is amazing — and I’m not a beer drinker,” she said.
New Haven Deputy Economic Development Director Stephen Fontana (pictured above with Lindy Lee Gold), who said he is largely an IPA (India Pale Ale) drinker, seemed to know his way around beer in addition to economic development: “Rhythm is an unfiltered, slightly ‘hoppy’ larger. Its South African hops make it pretty distinctive and smooth, with a slightly bitter finish. It’s a good beer to pair with food, appetizers, even a hot dog. It’s a great beer when you don’t want to get filled.”
Two bartenders known to the greater New Haven community are David Vanderhoef and photographer Jennifer Jane. Vanderhoef said he is “very happy that we’re getting more craft lagers,” noting an abundance of IPAs. “New Haven used to be the Milwaukee of the East Coast,” he said, referring to New Haven’s once prominent profile as a major brewing city. “Rhythm,” he said, “has a nice balance of hops — it’s a little less hoppy.” Jane noted that lagers are one of Germany’s oldest beers. “It’s great to see that they are rekindling that spirit.”
Sporting a thick knit cap and holding what appeared to be a Bloody Mary cocktail was New Haven chiropractor Jonathon Hryb. Hryb said his drink is typically called a Michelada, named after the popular Mexican beverage: a mélange of beer, lime juice, sauces, spices and peppers. His concoction was made with a base of Rhythm lager rather than the popular Mexican lagers like Corona. Hyrb said the drink is a great hangover remedy. “Take things slow, there’s no need to reignite a fire,” he cautioned.
Bowens-Mercado said fans of her beer may soon be able to find a variety of creative Rhythm-based cocktails at the storied
Anchor Spa, a popular College Street landmark and watering hole for generations.
In keeping with the spirit of Rhythm Lager’s brand identification, Saturday’s launch included some dancing…
...and some music provided by Dooley-O and DJ Christie, who took a moment to pose with Bowen-Mercado on the stage — a departure from her usual place on the dance floor as a dance instructor.
For Bowens-Mercado perhaps the most important ingredient of her successful flagship beer launch was the palpable feeling of support:
“Thank you so much, because there’s so much love in this room that it is incredible,” she told those who raised a glass to toast the event. “This is how we bring people together, and if it’s through beer — then salude!”
For more information about Rhythm Brewing Company call 203-809-2431 or click here.