Ohio’s beer industry among top in nation

The state ranks sixth in the nation when it comes to making, distributing and selling the popular beverage, which provides more than 82,000 jobs, pays nearly $3 billion in wages, contributes $1.9 billion in federal, state and local taxes and has a total economic impact topping $10 billion.

That’s according to an economic study jointly commissioned by the Beer Institute and the National Beer Wholesalers Association, which also finds that U.S. brewers and beer importers are the foundation for an industry that employs more than 2 million Americans, directly and indirectly.

Beer also poured $246.6 billion into America’s economy in 2012 and generated $49 billion in local, state and federal taxes, according to the study.

Jim McGreevy, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Beer Institute, said the industry is a robust, dynamic part of the economy.

“In 1976, somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 breweries were left in America,” McGreevy said. “Today, there are more than 2,500 breweries in America. There’s a lot of activity out there.”

For every one job at a brewery or beer importer, there are 45 jobs created in supplier industries and in local communities nationwide, he said. Those jobs come from the agriculture, business and personal services, construction, finance insurance and real estate, manufacturing, retail, transportation and communication, travel and entertainment and wholesale sectors.

“We estimate that 2 million Americans in some way are behind getting the beer from the farm to the bar, essentially,” McGreevy said.

Rolling out the largest amount of barrels in Ohio’s beer business is MillerCoors, one of the state’s two major breweries and one of the largest employers in Butler County.

MillerCoors Trenton Brewery in St. Clair Twp. employs about 520 people and has a payroll worth $72 million, said plant manager Denise Quinn.

Last year, employees of the St. Clair Twp. brewery produced more than 9 million barrels of beer and are on track to do the same this year, Quinn said.

The brewery makes 62 brands, of which approximately one-third are MillerCoors brands, Quinn said. That’s a far cry from the three or four Miller brands from when it started operating in 1991.

MillerCoors recently added brands, including premium golden lager Miller Fortune earlier this year and Third Shift amber ale in 2013.

The only brewery in the country that produces more beer for MillerCoors than its Butler County location is the company’s flagship brewery in Golden, Colo., which is also the largest MillerCoors in the nation, company officials said.

Ohio is an opportune location for MillerCoors because the Butler County brewery stands on a natural aquifer, which gives the company access to a high quality and quantity of water.

Access to a skilled workforce is also part of the location’s appeal, as is being centrally located to major highways.

When it comes to sales, MillerCoors “spans an interesting demographic,” and ships to 10 primary states but reaches more than that, Quinn said.

“We have products that we believe are attractive to a very broad audience, and I would have to say if you look at the state of Ohio … I suspect that comes into play as well here,” she said. “It is a varied demographic in Ohio, and certainly locally, that allows us to be successful.”

As for the upsurge in craft brewing on the local and national level, MillerCoors is “supportive of anything that is supportive of the overall brewing industry,” Quinn said.

The company even has a component of its organization — Tenth and Blake Beer Company — that handles MillerCoors craft beer products such as Leinenkugel and Blue Moon.

“Certainly we recognize that is something that a consumer is interested in and so we believe that we have products that meet that need,” Quinn said.

Smaller brewers are betting the same holds true for their own businesses.

Nationwide, craft brewers sold about 10.6 billion barrels of craft beer during the first half of 2014, an 18 percent increase over the 9 million barrels sold over the same period in 2013, according to the Brewers Association. The total number of breweries nationwide have jumped from 1,625 to 3,040 since 2010, the trade association said.

When state legislators a few years ago made it easier to open breweries in Ohio and to serve samples to on-site customers, the Ohio Department of Commerce said the move could open up new retail and agricultural markets throughout the state.

Mary MacDonald, executive director of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association, said state officials have indeed adopted some brewery-friendly regulations that have made it easier to launch a craft brewery in the Buckeye state.

“But it’s the strength of the craft beer culture and the craft beer movement that are driving the growth,” MacDonald said.

Ohio now has 96 breweries, up from 58 in 2012, with at least 20 more in the works, she said.

A local business tapping into the brewing bonanza is Quarter Barrel Brewery and Pub in Oxford. Owner Brandon Ney said capacity has remained consistent at about two barrels per month since the business opened in 2010.

“History shows us that communities of a certain population can support local, non distributed breweries,” Ney said. ” When coupled with a farm to table concept, there is an opportunity for a truly local gastronomic experience. That local first philosophy is what we seek to employ and is the road we encourage others to take.”

Among the surge of entrepreneurs seeking to slake the thirst for craft beers are Chris Frede and Tony Meyer, who are set to open DogBerry Brewing in West Chester Twp. next month, offering five year-round brews and five seasonal brews.

“The equipment is actually very small,” Meyer said. “Some folks might refer to it as a really fancy home brewing setup.”

DogBerry Brewing will use a one-barrel brewing system and its fermenter will hold two barrels, giving the business the capability of doing a double batch for year-round beers. Each barrel produces 31 gallons of beer. Meyer said the business hopes to makes about 220 barrels in the first year.

Meyer said the explosion of suds-related sales is simply “because it sells.”

“It’s hot,” Meyer said. “There’s a big craft beer movement and I think the more that people are exposed to it, the more they realize that that yellow, fizzy, nasty beer isn’t good enough for them anymore.”

Buying local is a big part of the craft beer movement, he said.

“People want to get things that are fresh, they want things that are made locally and when you can get that with good quality and flavor, you get a little more for your money that way,” Meyer said.

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