CLEVELAND: Craft breweries must continue to innovate, the keynote speaker at the fourth annual Ohio Craft Brewers Association conference said Tuesday.

“I don’t think you have a choice,” Mary Pellettieri, co-founder at La Pavia Beverage Inc. and Quality Instructor at the Brewers Association, said as she helped kick off the two-day event at the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland. “You’ve picked a path.”

The innovations can be as simple as making more lower-alcohol beers, introducing different styles, promoting beer cocktails or even introducing a subscription program for special beer, she said. But Pellettieri also warned that risks come along with innovation.

She urged craft brewers to focus on quality and the technical aspects of brewing. Consumers can get tired and angry if quality suffers, she said.

“Don’t be afraid to dump the beer,” Pellettieri said.

More than 600 brewers and others working in the craft industry are attending the conference in downtown Cleveland. In addition to networking opportunities, the event features 26 educational seminars with topics ranging from brewery expansions to making clean beer to special event planning.

Mary MacDonald, executive director of the association, noted that the event has grown as the industry has in Ohio. When the first conference was held in Wooster, there were only 60 breweries in the entire state.

Last year, 60 new breweries opened and there are well over 250 in Ohio today.

Collin Castore, president of the association board and founder of Seventh Son Brewing Co. in Columbus, said the state is an exceptional place for the craft beer industry. He attributed some of the growth to the collaborative nature of brewers.

The association plans to hold next year’s conference in Columbus.

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com. Read his beer blog at www.Ohio.com/beer. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.