Beer drinkers in Wayne and Holmes counties don’t have to travel far to take part in Ohio’s growing local craft brewery scene. 

And as Ohio approaches 300 craft breweries, many of them small local companies, both area beer producers — JAFB Wooster Brewery and Millersburg Brewing Co. — see themselves as well-established community institutions poised for further growth. 

“I think the industry is strong right now. Beer is just on everybody’s mind, and I like the way we’re going,” said Paul Fryman, JAFB’s owner and brewer. 

Marty Lindon, the brewmaster at Millersburg Brewing Co., added that local craft beer culture will continue to thrive so long as breweries like Millersburg and JAFB make quality products. 

“We’re doing something right here,” he said. “As long as the breweries are making good beer, it’ll keep growing and flourishing.”

Both brewers said that since their respective companies opened in 2012, they have benefited from overwhelming community support. 

“It’s been insanely awesome,” Fryman said of the community’s embrace of JAFB. “... I didn’t really know what to expect as far as community support. But when we first opened, it’s just been hit the ground running ever since.”

And Millersburg Brewing Co., Lindon said, has established itself as a gathering place in Holmes County.

“It’s where people come to have a couple of craft beers, some food — just a place to meet friends, neighbors, bring people in from out of town,” he said. “It’s something different and unique in Holmes County.”

And, both men said, they hope Wayne and Holmes counties will see more local craft breweries soon. 

“Every small community can support a brewery, or two,” Fryman said. 

“... When you go way back into history, there were breweries in every little town. So we’re kind of coming back to that,” he said, adding that communities like Smithville, Doylestown or his hometown of West Salem could support a craft brewery. 

“If you have good beer and you have somebody that’s dedicated to the community, it will work,” Fryman said. 

Lindon added that he’d like to see another craft brewery open in Holmes County.

“It’s not likely any time soon, but it seems like the more breweries you get in, the more it becomes a destination,” he said. 

For now, both Millersburg Brewing Co. and JAFB are enjoying their success, with an eye toward future growth, their brewers said.

“We’re still on the small side ... but everyone starts somewhere, and we’re still growing,” Lindon said. He added that Millersburg Brewing Co. produced 175 barrels of beer in 2013, its first full year, a statistic that has grown to just over 2,000 barrels in 2018. 

Millersburg Brewing Co. also will be celebrating its sixth anniversary on Saturday with a daylong celebration, including six beers brewed especially for the occasion, Lindon said. The event also will feature live music, food specials and giveaways every hour. 

Fryman said JAFB produced 217 barrels of beer in about sixth months of its inaugural year in 2012. This year, he said, JAFB is on pace to produce more than 1,000 barrels. 

That number could be much higher, Fryman said, but JAFB has made a conscious effort to manage its organic growth. 

“We’ve held the reins back on doing any major expansion. We’ve fought that hype, I guess you would say, and really focused here on Wooster,” he said. “And I think that’s really important. It’s allowed us to really keep our quality up.”

JAFB could double or even triple its production given its current equipment, but instead chooses to focus on brewing good, local craft beer, Fryman said. The company has grown at an average of 13 to 15 percent a year over the past several years, he added. 

And that sort of self-awareness, Fryman said, is the key to keeping Ohio’s local craft beer culture strong, vibrant and growing. 

“People are going to drink beer forever. It’s just finding your niche, finding where you fit in,” he said. “You know, everybody’s a little different. We’re different than Millersburg. We’re different than Ashland.”

— Reporter Jack Rooney can be reached at 330-287-1645 or jrooney@the-daily-record.com. He is on Twitter at twitter.com/RooneyReports.