Just a little over five years ago, references to “craft beer” might have needed some explanation. Today, the craft beer business is booming in Columbus and throughout the United States and the industry needs very little clarification. In a 2013 study by the Brewer’s Association, a not-for-profit trade group representing small and independent craft brewers, Ohio’s craft beer industry was named the fourth largest producer in the country, crafting more than one million barrels. Locally, there are more than a dozen breweries inside the I-270 beltway and even more on the way. Looking out farther into the Zanesville, Lancaster, Newark, Delaware and Mansfield areas, the number of operational breweries in central Ohio totals closer to 25. Driving Columbus’ ascension in the exploding craft brew industry is brewmaster, Eric Bean.
When the Ohio Craft Brewers Association was founded in 2008, the purpose was to unify the Ohio brewing community, market Ohio manufactured beers throughout the state and beyond, and monitor and promote a strong beer industry in Ohio. The Association found the perfect advocate to lead the group - Eric Bean. In his role as president of the organization, Eric works personally with each of the almost 100 member breweries because “our belief is that we owe it to the industry to make life easier for the smaller guys and to open some doors to make the legislative pieces easier.” The most progressive piece of legislation passed in Ohio was a 2011 law that allowed Ohio breweries to open tasting rooms without having to buy an expensive second permit. “For us, that was a huge thing!”
In addition to the advocacy side of the Association, the Ohio Craft Brewers Association organizes statewide events that showcase the thriving brewing industry in Ohio. The inaugural Columbus Craft Brew Week featured events in several venues: tastings, beer pairings, tap takeovers, educational opportunities for brewmasters and home brewers alike, a two mile Ultimate Beer Run, and the finale, titled ‘Six One Pour’, which was held at the appropriately named ‘Brewmasters’ Gate’ in the Brewery District. According to Mary MacDonald, Executive Director of the OCBA, “Eric Bean has been a stellar leader for the Ohio Craft Brewers Association. During his tenure as president, the organization hired its first Executive Director, quadrupled membership, wrote a strategic plan, is embarking on a branding campaign and spearheaded the first Columbus Craft Beer Week. As the owner of the largest and oldest brewery in Columbus, he sets a great example for the thoughtful growth of the craft beer industry and his award-winning beers put Columbus on the national stage.”
The “largest and oldest brewery in Columbus” that Ms. MacDonald refers to is Eric’s Columbus Brewing Company (CBC), founded in 1830 and located in the capital city’s historic Brewery District. Currently housed in a cramped 6,000 square foot production facility, Eric looks forward to the day when he can boost capacity from 12,000 barrels produced a year to 25,000. While the brewer’s popular IPA makes up more than 70% of their sales, they look forward to increasing production of popular beers like Bohdi, Summer Teeth and Festbier.
While it’s not often that a brewmaster has majority ownership in a brewery, Eric and his wife purchased a 97% stake in CBC in 2010. The biggest challenge in securing ownership of CBC was molding the business “into something we wanted it to be,” Eric said. “Owning a brewery has been a dream since my first batch of homebrew in 1993, and after fifteen years of professional brewing, it finally happened. I am proud to own a company with such a great history,” he added. Eric brings years of experience to the brewery including an apprenticeship with a German-trained brewmaster, time spent studying brewing science at U.C. Davis, and brewing at several breweries across North America. “It’s our goal to produce unique world class beers. So, we are proud to use only the finest ingredients, many locally harvested, to bring the best in hand-crafted brews.”
For craft beer lovers, the reality is that they’re willing to pay a little more for a beer that offers something more: more flavor, more variety and more local appeal. Heartland Bank is a little like that too – while you don’t have to pay ‘more’ for our products and services, you will enjoy the benefits that come with building a relationship with your community banker, the hometown feel of a community bank that supports your community, and most importantly the pride that comes with reinvesting in your community.