November 25, 2014

Elyria
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Vermilion man begins brewery tour

CLEVELAND — Vermilion resident Lance Rice, an expert on brewery-related memorabilia, began his tour of American breweries with his first stop at Great Lakes Brewery on Thursday.

Lance Rice poses with his beer can collection at his home in Vermilion on April 13.

Lance Rice poses with his beer can collection at his home in Vermilion on April 13.

Rice, who is autistic, is the subject of a documentary as he travels throughout the U.S., visiting breweries along the way. In April, Rice spoke excitedly about the trip and the book he wants to write about American breweries after his travels.

Marissa DeSantis, spokeswoman for Great Lakes Brewery, said she was contacted a few months ago by Lance’s nephew, Aaron Rice, an actor and filmmaker who is heading the project. She said the company jumped on board to be the first brewery on the tour.

“We were very interested in helping out,” she said. “We weren’t sure what the scope of the project was, but it’s grown.”

Since the project was announced in April, the project’s Kickstarter page has raised more than $21,000. The goal was to raise $15,000, according to the website.

DeSantis said Great Lakes Brewery also is contributing to the project. For every pint purchased on Thursday, $1 would be donated to the tour.

DeSantis said Thursday is one of the busier days for the brewery, but she said people have been calling about the project and are excited to meet Lance, who began his tour Thursday afternoon.

As part of the tour, Rice was led through the entire brewery by a tour guide who works with special needs and autistic children. He had the opportunity to meet the brewery’s owner, Pat Conway, who spoke about some of the history of the brewery — the majority of which DeSantis said Lance Rice already knew.

“He knows a lot about the brewery,” she said, laughing.

Rice, who has a near photographic memory, can remember where and when he got his first beer can. A collector of old cans, Lance Rice has thousands that line the walls of his Vermilion home.

DeSantis said employees of Great Lakes Brewery are excited to see the finished documentary and were honored to be part of the tour.

“It’s really exciting for us,” she said.

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com.