Start the countdown. Ohio is closing in on the century mark for the number of breweries operating in the state.
The count now stands at 90. (That’s a debatable number but more on that later.) With six license applications pending before the Ohio Division of Liquor Control and many other wannabe brewers yet to submit their paperwork, it’s only a matter of time before the Buckeye State hits 100.
That will put Ohio in the rarefied company of California, Colorado, Michigan, Oregon and Pennsylvania, which already eclipsed that mark.
Here’s the breakdown by county, according to an Akron Beacon Journal analysis of state records:
• Franklin (14): Actual, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Barley’s, Barley’s Smokehouse, Columbus, Elevator, Four String, Gordon Biersch, New Albany Country Club, North High, Seventh Son, Sideswipe, Wolf’s Ridge and Zauber.
• Cuyahoga (12): Black Box, BottleHouse, Brew Kettle, Buckeye, Cornerstone, Fat Head’s, Great Lakes, Indigo Imp, Market Garden, Nano Brew, Portside and Rocky River.
• Hamilton (10): Blank Slate, Christian Moerlein, Double Barrel, 50 West, Listermann/Triple Digit, MadTree, Rhinegeist, Rivertown, Rock Bottom and Samuel Adams.
• Montgomery (6): Dayton, Eudora, Hairless Hare, Lock 27, Star City and Toxic Brew.
• Summit (5): Hoppin’ Frog, MadCap, Nauti Vine, Thirsty Dog and Trailhead.
• Lake (4): Brew Mentor, Cellar Rats, Little Mountain and Willoughby.
• Licking (4): Buck’s, Buckeye Lake, Granville and Homestead.
The rise of the beer industry here has been meteoric thanks to the growth of the craft segment and the state making it easier financially for craft brewers to open. (i.e. the annual license fee dropping from $3,906 to $1,000 and allowing brewers to open taprooms without purchasing a separate license.)
Just two years ago, there were 49 breweries. Since then, five have closed or stopped brewing — R.I.P. Cleveland ChopHouse, J.F. Walleye’s, Neil House, Ohio and Wooden Shoe — and an astonishing 46 have opened.
Has the growth been positive for craft beer drinkers?
Anybody who’s sampled MadTree, Rhinegeist, 50 West, Yellow Springs, Four String, Wooster and others would offer an emphatic, “Heck yeah.”
Now, let’s get back to that debatable number of 90.
The state has issued more than 100 brewing licenses. But for a variety of reasons, you shouldn't count them all as breweries.
Two of those licenses went to places that brew tea with alcohol and not beer. It’s silly that the state considers them breweries in the first place.
Then, Elevator, Jackie O’s, Fat Head’s, Brew Kettle, Buckeye and Christian Moerlein each hold two brewing licenses because they have both brewpubs and production breweries. Cornerstone also holds two licenses, even though its Madison site doesn’t have a brewery. It’d be illogical to count these operations as separate breweries, even though they are in the eyes of the law.
Meanwhile, Granite City Food & Brewery operates restaurants in Maumee and Lyndhurst and has two brewing licenses, but the chain doesn’t actually brew at the locations. (Long story short: They ferment the wort there.) So Granite City shouldn’t be counted, either.
And there are Pug Mahones in Lakewood and Teller’s of Hyde Park in Cincinnati. They both hold brewing licenses but are enigmas. A woman answering the phone at Pug Mahones said the bar doesn’t brew, while a woman at Teller’s said they do, even though its website makes no mention of brewing its own beer. Let’s just leave Pug Mahones and Teller’s out for now.
There also are two private breweries in the state. Both the Atwood Yacht Club and New Albany Country Club have breweries. Unless you’re a member or get an invitation, don’t expect to sample the beer produced there. But they are breweries nonetheless.
So, toss out the tea brewers, count brewpubs and production breweries under the same brand name as one, count Cornerstone only once, scrap Granite City altogether, forget Pug Mahones and Teller’s, leave in the private operations and that leaves .... drum roll please ... 90.
Feel free to nitpick my logic.