There are just over 3,000 retail mustard brands across the globe, but in Cleveland, only two matter: Bertman’s Original Ball Park Mustard and Authentic Stadium Mustard.
Cleveland, mustard and hot dogs are the same as America, fireworks and apple pie. But not any mustard will do for Clevelanders; they cannot get enough of either the Bertman’s or Stadium brands. And don’t bring out any sissy yellow mustard made by Heinz in Pittsburgh.
The mustard itself is very similar in color, taste and even the bottles resemble each other with the red labels and tops. Vinegar-based, tan in color, a bit sweet or spicy and acidic, and available almost everywhere in the State of Ohio – but that’s about it.
This simple condiment has been a staple in Cleveland for decades. All you have to do is find the mustard and you are in good shape. No weiner should be without it. Households have even expanded its usage for sausage, ham, bar-b-q sauces, turkey, tuna, egg and chicken salad, corned beef, hamburgers and holds up well basted on items on the grille.
Besides selling the product in stores across Ohio, Bertman’s is used at Cleveland Indian games while Stadium is the one used at Cleveland Browns home games.
But where did these two iconic mustards come from?
Bertman’s is 95 years old this year. Like many great ideas and success stories, this tale of good taste began in a garage. The founder, Joe Bertman, began making various varieties of pickles, coffee blends, sauces and spices concocted in his garage near Kinsman Avenue at the age of 19. He then branded his company the Bertman Pickle Company.
The oldest of six children, he would begin his days very early and go out to sell his products to local merchants. Locally, Bertman was called “The Pickle King.” He tinkered with recipes and ideas until he produced a product that he enjoyed himself. Back then, all pickle makers produced their product in barrels. Bertman was the first to put pickles into bottles for sale.
Bertman also experimented with other food items. As his business grew, he re-branded his company Bertman Food Products Company, a wholesale food business and moved to East 76th Street. Some of his clients included schools, caterers, hospitals, and various institutions. He then landed an account at League Park, home of the Cleveland Indians.
He expanded his inventory to provide lots of food products such as sugar, tomato products, canned goods, preserves, canned fruits and vegetables, canned meats, soups, sauces, fruit juices, and assorted condiments, to name a few. Bertman did most of the sales calls himself as well as deliveries as needed as his business grew into a sizable company.
Baseball and hot dogs just go together. League Park sold lots of frankfurters and pretzels and wanted a signature mustard to call their own. Bertman did what he always had done, and experimented with various mustard concoctions until he had one he was happy with. He put his brown mustard product into glass gallon jars and sold it to his baseball client. The Indians concession staff would return the bottles to which they were washed and then refilled. With it being Bertman’s own recipe, all profits belonged to his company. League Park would eventually become the home of the Cleveland Rams of the National Football League in 1937.
When the Rams moved to Los Angeles and the Browns became the newest pro football team in 1946, the Browns immediately moved into Cleveland Municipal Stadium where Bertman’s was also served. At the time, the Indians would play night, weekend and selected games at Municipal Statium before becoming a full-time tenant in 1947. The current home of the Indians, Progressive Field (formerly Jacobs Field), still offers Bertman’s exclusively.
A typical game will sell thousands of frankfurters wrapped in foil. A pump station is located near every concession stand, but vendors who roam the stadium yelling “Hey hot dog!” serve the red hots with individual Bertman’s mustard packs.
Mustard is derived from the seeds of various types of mustard plants and is considered a spice. Origins of the condiment mixed old wine with crushed seeds removed from their seed coats that formed a paste or sauce as a flavor enhancer. There are over 40 varieties of mustard plants that produce seeds including yellow, mild white, black, and many varieties of brown seeds. The most common source of brown seeds come from the Brassica juncea mustard plant.
In the 1960s, Bertman’s sales staff was pretty large, and one of his hires was David Dwoskin. Dwoskin became enamored with the brown mustard since attending an Indians game when he was 12 years old. Eventually, he convinced Bertman to offer the mustard to retail outlets (cost 19 cents a bottle) and handled this aspect as Bertman concentrated on the institutional side of the business. In 1971, Dwoskin registered the name “The Authentic Stadium Mustard.”
Then in 1982, the two men had a major disagreement. Dwoskin left Bertman’s and formed his own company called Davis Food Company. Dwoskin had seen first-hand the immense popularity of the brown mustard and then made a similar version himself under the Stadium name.
Years later, Dwoskin got the contract to supply Memorial Stadium, which was then exclusively the Browns’ home stadium.
What Dwoskin did for his product was he sold directly to supermarkets and mom and pop stores making the product available to consumers into their own households. Folks no longer had to go to sporting events in order to eat this concoction that they had devoured for decades. The color of the mustard between the two brands was almost identical, both labels were red and in a grocery store setting the label stated “Stadium Mustard”, so naturally people gravitated towards the product.
Whereas Bertman’s sold their product institutionally, Stadium sold it retail.
Both products come out of their bottles creamy and smooth unlike other brown mustards which are usually more coarse. As far as taste, Bertman’s adds some sugar to their recipe making it sweeter whereas Stadium imparts red pepper for a bit spicier sensation.
The list of ingredients for the two products is similar - but different. Bertman’s label lists distilled vinegar, mustard seed, sugar, salt and spices. Stadium’s label ingredients are vinegar, water, #1 mustard seed, salt and red pepper. So neither products add any preservatives.
Of course, only the manufacturers know what type of mustard seed they use and what country they harvest it from, if “spices” include some sort of peppers, while the amount of salt is different with Stadium adding 65mg while Bertman’s is 80mg. Both mustard products are a Cleveland product. Stadium claims it does not need any refrigeration.
Bertman’s is also offered at several other ballparks. Canal Park in Akron, OH is home of the RubberDucks, a Double-A club of the Indians and the Lake County Captains, the Indians Single-A farm team, play at Classic Park in Eastlake, OH.
Stadium is in 150 arenas and stadiums across the country including Ohio Stadium, home of Ohio State and Rocket Mortgage Arena (Cavaliers).
Stadium has the distinction of having been on several Space Shuttle flights. The product was aboard Discovery in 1995 and Columbia in 1997. Ohio native and astronaut Don Thomas requested the sauce on both flights and even brought back an unused packet from space that is now property of Davis Foods.
Both brands offer their products for sale online.
BertmanBallparkMustard.com offers the 9 oz., a 16 oz. plus a 16 oz. Indians label plastic bottles. 12-count case prices for each are $35 (9 oz.), and $45 (16 oz. and Indians label). All of these prices are plus shipping. The Indians label is the only one that can be ordered as a single bottle but is usually out-of-stock.
StadiumMustard.com sells their 12 oz. plastic bottles via a 12-count case for $26 plus shipping.
For those who don’t live in Ohio, there are several other choices to get your favorite.
Various eBay vendors sell all varieties. One seller has a 16 oz. Bertman’s Indians label bottle coupled with a 12 oz. Stadium bottle for $15.99 plus $7.50 shipping. A single Bertman’s 16 oz. bottle can be found for $5.99 plus the shipping of $8.99 whereas a single Stadium bottle cost $3.99 ($5.75 shipping). One eBay vendor offers nine Bertman’s 16 oz. Indians label bottles for $64.99 with free shipping, so prices can be a bit higher on this site.
Amazon stocks both mustard brands. A 9 oz. bottle of Bertman’s is just $7.64 whereas a two-pack of the 12 oz. Stadium is $14.99. You can find the Stadium on Walmart.com, but it comes only in a 12-pack case for $32.56, and they don’t stock the Bertman’s at all online. With both of these online sources, there is a shipping plateau where shipping can be free as long as your total purchase exceeds a certain number. So if you like to shop here, make sure you order additional items so that a $7.64 bottle doesn’t cost you twice.
What is your Cleveland mustard preference?
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That sissy yellow mustard