COLUMBUS — Ohio is brimming with craft breweries.
The Buckeye State started the new year with 297 craft breweries, Ohio Craft Brewers Association Executive Director Mary MacDonald announced Wednesday at the group's annual conference, held this year at the Hyatt Regency. Fifty-four breweries opened last year in Ohio, while 10 closed. About another 50 are still in the planning stages.
"Ohio craft beer is booming," MacDonald said.
The craft industry has seen a meteoric rise in the state. At the beginning of 2012, there were fewer than 50 breweries.
Ohio ranked 11th nationwide last year in terms of the number of breweries, according to the Brewers Association, a Boulder, Colo.-based trade group.
As for when the growth will slow down, nobody knows, especially with consumers embracing locally made beer, breweries being launched in smaller towns and communities encouraging brewery openings to help revitalize downtowns and neighborhoods.
"It's hard to say," said Chris Davison, brewer at Wolf's Ridge Brewing in Columbus.
"I still feel like there's plenty of growth for smaller breweries and niche breweries, but I don't expect to see any new players coming into the regional brewery scene any time soon," he added.
Collin Castore, president of the state association and co-founder of Seventh Son Brewing and Antiques on High in Columbus, cautioned his fellow brewers that it's no longer enough just to make great beer — "although that's still the largest piece of the puzzle."
"We also need to think of the naming, packaging and marketing of that beer ...," he said. "Quality is becoming more of an expectation and lack of quality is becoming more evident as our consumers mature."
The three-day conference features seminars, a trade show and get-togethers for those in the industry. About 640 people attended this year, a record for the event.
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.