So it's that time of the year again when journalists sit back and reflect on the past 365 days and make lists. All the cool kids are doing it and I so desperately want to be cool.
So without further fanfare, here are the top seven Ohio beer stories for 2018, as voted on by me, myself and I:
New, new, new
The Ohio craft beer industry continues to grow like ... well ... insert your own silly pun here. The Ohio Division of Liquor Control issued 62 new brewing licenses in 2018.
Among the breweries we welcomed this year — and this is not a comprehensive list! — are: Akronym in Akron, Bookhouse in Cleveland, Branch and Bone in Dayton, Cloven Hoof in Ashtabula, Devil Wind in Xenia, Hoodletown in Dover, Inside the Five in Sylvania, Laird Arcade in Tiffin, Lock 15 in Akron, Missing Falls in Akron, Missing Mountain in Cuyahoga Falls, Muskellunge in Canton, Patron Saints in Toledo, Somewhere in Particular in Columbus, Sonder in Mason, Southern Tier in Cleveland, Swine City in Fairfield and Twin Oast in Port Clinton.
Lest you think that Ohio is special, don't. The growth is happening all over the U.S. The Brewers Association, the Boulder, Colorado-based trade group, has estimated that there are now more than 7,000 breweries operating in the country.
Oh, and we will likely see the industry continue to expand in the Buckeye State. There are about 50 pending licenses before the Ohio Division of Liquor Control right now.
With more than 315 brewing licenses issued in Ohio now (some breweries have more than one license), it's fair to say the state's craft beer scene is robust.
Ohio continues to show the world that its brewers produce high-quality, award-winning beer.
Thirteen Ohio breweries won medals this year at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival in Denver. That's a record for the state.
The Brew Kettle in Strongsville, Brink in Cincinnati, Columbus in Columbus, Fat Head's in Middleburg Heights, North Olmsted and Canton, Ignite in Barberton, Lager Heads in Medina, Lockport in Bolivar, Market Garden in Cleveland, Masthead in Cleveland, MadTree in Cincinnati, Maize Valley in Hartville, Paradigm Shift in Massillon and Royal Docks in Jackson Township brought home hardware to hang at their breweries. (Brink also did something super-duper special, but more on that in a second because the Cincinnati brewery deserves its own highlight.)
Meanwhile, nine Ohio breweries won medals at the biennial World Beer Cup: Brink, Columbus, Fat Head's, Fifty West in Cincinnati, Fretboard in Blue Ash, Little Fish in Athens, Millersburg in Millersburg, Platform in Cleveland and Taft's in Cincinnati.
Another meanwhile, Rhinegeist in Cincinnati and Dayton Beer in Dayton took home medals at this year’s Festival of Wood & Barrel-Aged Beer (FoBAB) in Chicago.
Yet another meanwhile, Hoppin' Frog in Akron and Jackie O's in Athens were again named two of the top 100 breweries in the world by RateBeer.com. Those two breweries make the cut every year.
Take a bow, Brink
Someone squirt water on Brink because it's on fire.
Brink, a neighborhood brewery in Cincinnati that opened in 2017, received two medals and took home the Very Small Brewing Company of the Year award at the Great American Beer Festival. What's the "Very Small Brewing Company of the Year" award mean? Brink kicked fanny at the festival with the quality of its beers.
Brink won for Moozie and Hold the Reins. Oh, Moozie also won at the World Beer Cup and Hold the Reins won at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival.
In other words, when in Cincinnati, visit Brink and order a Moozie and Hold the Reins.
Back to growth for a minute, it's not just brand new names entering the craft brewing scene. Existing breweries are expanding with new locations and/or production breweries.
Fat Head's, Platform, Findlay and Royal Docks were among the breweries to open new production facilities. Ill-Mannered opened a larger site in Powell. Seventh Son opened Antiques on High in Columbus. Shale relocated and opened a taproom in suburban Canton. Granville opened a taproom in Granville. Fat Head's also opened a new brewpub in suburban Canton. The list goes on.
Meanwhile, BrewDog opened a couple of pubs in Columbus and is eyeing other locations in the state. Not to mention that Samuel Adams and Southern Tier opened breweries in Cincinnati and Cleveland, respectively.
Usually, you don't want to be in someone's doghouse. But BrewDog's DogHouse? Yes, please.
The Scottish brewery opened a 32-room hotel alongside its production brewery and tasting room in Canal Winchester. Each room has a mini-fridge stocked with beer, of course. And BrewDog draft beer is available for purchase in the rooms.
The hotel also features a workout facility with Rogue Fitness equipment, a lobby bar, daily breakfast and a few dog-friendly rooms.
Not to be outdone, Sandy Springs Brewing in Minerva is renovating a neighboring building into a boutique hotel with a couple of rooms for out of town guests. The Brewers Quarters will open in early 2019.
Say it ain't so
Jackie O's brewer Brad Clark, who turned the small brewpub in the college town of Athens into a worldwide brand, announced he's leaving the brewery for California. (He actually doesn't ship out until early next year.)
Clark has been there since Jackie O's was born in 2006. He's one of the state's most creative and prolific brewers, and his talent is going to be missed.
Meanwhile, Rick Seibt, the brewmaster at Willoughby Brewing in Willoughby, resigned his position just as the brewpub was expanding into production and distribution. Seibt helped garner acclaim for the brewery with medals at the World Beer Cup for Peanut Butter Cup Coffee Porter and Nutsmasher. As of this writing, his next move was unclear.
Beer tourism continues to be an economic driver for communities — one that tourism groups can't ignore.
Several communities launched brewery passport programs in 2018, including the Cleveland Brewery Passport in Cleveland, Stateline Brewers Guild Ales & Trails in the Youngstown area and Dayton Ale Trail in Dayton. They joined already established trails in Akron, Cincinnati, Columbus and Fairfield County, along with the Ohio Craft Brewers Association's statewide Ohio on Tap app.
Brewery passport programs are in the works for Toledo and Canton.
Here are a few more quick hits from the year that was:
• Four String Brewing Co. in Columbus — known for beers such as Hilltop — closed its production brewery and taproom. The brewery had opened in 2011.
• Great Lakes Brewing in Cleveland and Columbus Brewing in Columbus celebrated their 30th anniversaries.
• Pete Hilgeman, founder of Dayton Beer Co. in Dayton, launched the Ohio Craft Brewers Cup, a new judged event open only to Ohio breweries. Market Garden Prosperity Wheat won the inaugural best of show competition.
• Speaking of Ohio competitions, Rockmill Petite Saison was named the best Ohio-made Belgian at the annual King of Ohio competition, another judged Ohio-only event. (I am one of the organizers.)
• When Sierra Nevada put out the call for breweries around the country to brew Resilience IPA to help raise money for victims of the Camp Fire in California, Ohio responded. The Ohio Craft Brewers Association estimated that 51 Ohio brewers produced the beer, which is out now.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his daily beer blog at www.ohio.com/beer. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.