Friday, June 27, 2008

Cleveland’s Great Mustard Debate

Forget Paris…well, I mean Dijon. Mustard, that is. There are only two kinds of mustard for true Clevelanders. One is Stadium Mustard, and the other is Bertman Original Ball Park Mustard. Stadium Mustard is currently the official mustard of Progressive Field, is featured at 150 stadiums and arenas throughout the United States, and has been served to astronauts on the Space Shuttle. Bertman’s had been used at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Both mustards are a not so pleasing color of brown, and both have a distinctive spicy, tart/tangy taste.

But trying to say – or even think – that one is better than the other could start a war, or worse yet, a hockey game could break out. Bertman lovers call Stadium Mustard an “inferior counterfeit” and a “knock-off”; Stadium Mustard lovers say theirs just tastes better and the proof is that it's used in so many sports arenas. So I won’t tell you which one I like best. But I did a little research to bring out the details of who was the first stadium/ballpark mustard.

There are some details in the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History about Bertman’s:

The company was founded in 1920 by JOSEPH BERTMAN who was born in Lublin, Poland, and came to Cleveland as a child with his parents. He began the company in a garage at the Bertman home at E. 147th near Kinsman, where spices and pickles were processed and packaged. The firm relocated to 653 E. 103rd by the mid-1930s, and was then known as the Bertman Pickle Co. Soon afterward, the company relocated to 2180 E. 76th near Cedar. It is now located at 7777 Grand Avenue….Bertman's Original Ball Park Mustard is the company's best known product. Bertman himself said that the Cleveland Stadium was his first customer in 1932, but some sources indicate that the mustard was first sold at LEAGUE PARK baseball games in 1938. The spicy, tan mustard, considered by some to be the best available, is custom-blended from a secret recipe. Until the early 1970s it was only sold in gallons, but afterwards was carried by supermarkets. It was available at the Cleveland Stadium as well as the new baseball park, Jacobs Field.

David Dwoskin, President, Davis Foods Company, who makes Stadium mustard, says on Stadium Mustard’s web site:

When I was only twelve years old, my father took me to the Cleveland Municipal Stadium for the first time. I don't remember who was playing, but I do remember biting into my first hot dog with this delicious brown mustard on it. This was part of growing up in Cleveland. For more than fifty years, this mustard was served at the old Stadium, "a true Cleveland tradition". Thirty years ago I made that same mustard available in supermarkets and gave it a name - The Authentic Stadium Mustard, named after the Cleveland Stadium.”
So it appears Bertman’s is truly the ORIGINAL. But whose mustard is the best? If you want to taste test and you’re living here in Cleveland, you can easily get both. Well, maybe not so easy; I get Bertman’s at my local Heinen’s (who only carries the best stuff, by the way) but I couldn’t find a slot for Stadium mustard on the shelf…Oops, did I just tip my hand to my house favorite?

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John M. DeJak said...

You have a great blog and I've added it my my blogroll! The Mustard Debate is a classic. Finally, something truly human and worthwhile being debated about!

Keep up the great work!

74WIXYgrad said...

My preference is Stadium Mustard, though Bertram's is good also.

Kid Geezer said...

Neither Bertman's, nor Stadium, mustard (as sold in stores) tastes to my buds like the mustard that was served at Municipal Stadium in the 60's and 70's when I was a lad growing up in Cleveland.

Maybe it's the small batch recipes or the lack of the other "odoeurs du Stadium" blending with the flavor of the mustard or the lack of Lions Brand hot dogs as a base, but it's just not the same.

Bertman's, to my palate, has the faint taste of soap (which I also detect in Sam Adams Ale). Stadium doesn't have the zip of the mustard I remember.

The nose knows. But the tongue can never be told a lie.

--A former kid (now geezeer) from Cleveland

vabookco said...

I grew up in Cleveland in the 70's & 80's. As a teenager I worked weekends at Municipal Stadium and once snuck a giant plastic jar home for my own entertainment. It was definitely labeled Stadium Mustard and looked very similar to the label on the current Authentic Stadium Mustard. I ate a lot of the stuff. Now I'm in North Carolina and I ordered a case of each within the past year. Authentic Stadium Mustard reminds me of the stuff of my childhood. Also, side by side, I prefer the flavor of Authentic Stadium Mustard. The taste has a touch more vinegar but not the bitter aftertaste that I detect in Bertman. However I'll admit that it could be an issue with the batch. Evidently mustard seed can vary. Next time I'm in Cleveland I'll be sure to pick up another bottle of the Bertman just too see if I notice that same aftertaste.

don thomas said...

Without a doubt Stadium Mustard is the best in the world, and I should know. As a native Clevelander and four-time veteran Space Shuttle astronaut, I carried Stadium Mustard with me on three of my flights. If you think it tastes good on a hot dog in Cleveland, you should try it up in space. Out of this world!!

All Things Cleveland said...

Don - that is the best testimonial I have ever heard!

MJ Besuner said...

As a family with diabetes I am delighted that Stadium Mustard not only tastes outstanding there is absolutely no sugar in it. As far as I'm concerned there is no competition. Stadium Mustard wins by a long shot!

Randall said...

The bottles you folks remember did indeed say Stadium Mustard, however Bertman's retained the rights to the original recipe, while Davis Foods got the rights to the name, the "brand" that David Dwoskin developed and sold in grocery stores "30 years ago." Back then, he was peddling Joe Bertman's recipe. The current recipe, though, is slightly different and made in Illinois. Read the quotes carefully and you'll see that Dworkin does not claim to be using the original recipe, only that Stadium Mustard WAS sold at Municipal Stadium. Clevelanders are being fooled by the label! Bertman's, using the original recipe, but a newer trademark, is what is still being sold at Indians games at Progressive Field.

wellawoman said...

Well, I'm just honest to goodness stoked that I have found fellow mustard enthusiast's. Said nobody I thought.turns one of a growing number...exciting is not even the word...mustard lovers of the world.. Be visible...hell to the mustardeeeaaa