Warren County area chases Ohio’s microbrewery boom

Number in Ohio could double next year.Lebanon and Clearcreek Twp. work on new rules.

Still, officials in Lebanon met last week to iron out wrinkles in proposed regulations that would enable as many as three different entrepreneurs to move forward with plans to open microbreweries here.

Just north of Lebanon in Clearcreek Twp., officials are working on new microbrewery rules with their local boards.

“It’s something that’s exploding. It’s a market that’s growing,” said Sam Hill, city planner in Lebanon.

Ohio microbrewery boom

The number of microbreweries in Ohio is on track to double sometime next year, according to state records.

Since July 30, 2013, when new state law created a new, less expensive annual permit fee for microbreweries — $1,000 compared to $3,906 for other breweries — the total number of breweries has jumped from 83 to 126, and all but three are microbreweries, according to the Division of Liquor Control.

The number of microbreweries will climb to 149 if all those pending are approved by the state. And so far, industry observers anticipate continued growth in the number of new microbreweries next year.

“I do expect it to grow, at least for a while. There is going to be a saturation point. I’m not sure what that is,” said Justin Kohnen, part owner one of two microbreweries in downtown Miamisburg.

Microbrewing in Lebanon, Clearcreek Twp.

Last week, Lebanon city officials declined to identify the prospects but said inquiries had been made about opening a microbrewery along Broadway in downtown Lebanon and a few blocks south in an old shoe factory.

Also, Paul Rodenbeck, a land owner trying to woo a microbrewery to land he owns west of downtown, said Warren County officials were urging his prospect to locate at the county fairgrounds, just north of downtown.

Despite growth statewide and in the area, there is an area between Lock 27 in Centerville, near the Montgomery-Warren county line and Valley Vineyards in Morrow, where there are no microbreweries.

Lebanon had a microbrewery, Mighty Casey’s, which closed in 1999, in a dispute between the owners.

Today, microbreweries in the area could draw on a market of more than 100,000 residents living between Springboro, Lebanon, Mason and Monroe, not to mention visitors drawn the new Miami Valley Gaming racino and other attractions, ranging from Kings Island Amusement Park to the Golden Lamb Inn.

“They’re brewing beer, but they are also becoming tourist locations,” said Matt Mullins, spokesman for the Division of Liquor Control. “People want to buy things that are made locally. It has this ripple effect to help the local economies.”

New rules, to be considered next month by the Lebanon Planning Commission, would allow for microbreweries, brewpubs and breweries, based on the amount of square footage devoted to brewing versus the sale of beer or food.

In Clearcreek Twp., zoning officials are tweaking microbrewery regulations, in part prompted by rejected plans to brew beer at the Hidden Valley Farm Market.

“I wasn’t trying to push them out of the jurisdiction,” said Jeff Palmer, director of planning and zoning in Clearcreek Twp. Instead, Palmer said the plan ran into trouble in part due to the inadequacy and complexity of the existing regulations.

Hidden Valley is still planning to brew hard cider under an agricultural exemption, although no target date was available.

Next month, Palmer plans to present the latest draft of regulations establishing areas and rules for “brewpubs,” businesses brewing up to 10,000 gallons of beer or spirits a year, along with breweries and distilleries.

Unlike Dayton, which is encouraging microbreweries for economic development, “we’re just trying to give it a place, a home,” he said.

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