Business Hopping For Ohio Craft Brewers

Some hops on display from the Local Hops Company of Williamsburg, Michigan [Mark Urycki / ideastream]
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The Ohio Craft Brewers Association is holding its annual convention in Cleveland this week. Sure, there’s beer there, but mostly it’s all about the hops, the grains, the bottles – the business of brewing. And business is good.

If it seems like there are a lot of young men with beards in Cleveland this week, you’re not imagining it. Attendance at the Craft Brewers Association convention is up 30 percent from last year. The Association says there are 265 small breweries in Ohio and most of those just started in the past 3 to 4 years.  


Brewer Larry Horwitz (L) and other brewers chat with Jim Canepa (R) of the Ohio Dept. of Commerce [Mark Urycki / ideastream] 

The brewers are feeling good about a new cut in the federal excise tax that was sponsored by Senator Rob Portman of Ohio. For small brewers the tax is cut in half from $7 a barrel to $3.50. Association spokesman Justin Hemminger said that’s a boon to these small businesses.

“Even just a few thousand dollars can mean the difference between whether or not you have the flexibility to make a capital improvement you’ve been looking to do for a while, hire a new staff,” Hemminger said. “It’s absolutely essential to the bottom line of these breweries.”  


Ohio farmers growing barley and hops are just part of the many brewery spinoff businesses. West Branch Malts is in Brunswick with farms in Lorain County.

For Columbus brewer Larry Horwitz, that means hiring more people. A board member for the national Brewers Association, Horwitz said Ohio offers some benefits to small brewers, like allowing them to distribute beer themselves.  

"You can legitimately operate a pretty small brewery in Ohio and still feed your family,” said Horwitz. “If your goal is to take over the world, that’s a different situation. But we want to encourage small members to make and sell their products to the consumer and Ohio is a great state for that right now.”   


Justin Hemminger Communications Mgr of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association says they make up 12% of the market in Ohio and so, have room to grow.

The Brewers Association ranks Ohio 4th in the nation for craft brew production.

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