As craft brewing grows in Ohio — with approximately 96 active brewing permits — the competition can heat up. It can be hard enough for a craft brewery to make a name for itself and secure desired, highly sought-after bar tap handles. But don’t fear Ohio brewers, Eric Bean, Columbus Brewing Co. brewmaster, sees opportunity for everyone … for now.
“Is everybody going to walk away from this successful? No. It’s business. There is opportunity and places to grow. There’s opportunity for us to take over tap handles from out-of-state brewers. The local movement is strong. But it’s still a business,” he said at the Ohio Craft Brewers Association’s Winter Warmer, which showcased beers from 24 Ohio craft breweries. “Right now, there’s opportunity for everyone. What comes down the road, we don’t know. We don’t target brewery’s handles, we just try to pursue opportunities and grow. We can all be friends and get along right now. Long term, we’re all going to have to continue to grow and there’s going to be more competition.
“I think the general attitude in the industry is that 9-to-5 we’re conducting business, and it’s nothing personal. After work or at a beer festival, there’s no bad blood,” he said.
If you’re looking to throw your brew into the Ohio craft beer carafe, now is the time, but Bean did urge caution to new brewers. The biggest challenge, according to Bean, is capital. You’re going to need more than what it takes just to get your brewery’s doors open.
“Capital – it’s not a joke,” he said in a tone that told you he’s seen his fair share of monetary difficulties. “This isn’t a $100,000 start-up business. Just because you can raise enough money to get the doors open, you’re still going to need more money to grow — more money for kegs, more money for tanks. And it’s not a high-margin industry; it’s a volume industry. I think that’s the hardest part.”
Bean explained that with the boom in the nanobrewery model, brewers still have to make the numbers work at the end of the day.
“The guys who are in the start-up phase thinking they can get by just getting their doors open, they need a long-term plan of how they’re going to grow the business. If all you can raise will just get the doors open, where are you going to get the next round of capital? That’s what we’re seeing more and more of.”