Three Craft Breweries on Tap in Athens County

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Three new craft breweries will begin operations in Athens County by summer. Little Fish Brewing Co., Multiple Brewing Co. and Devil’s Kettle Brewery are all hoping to get their businesses kick-started in time for Ohio Brew Week 2015 in July.  

Brewing craft beer is a growing trend across the nation.  In fact, the number of craft breweries nationwide has doubled within the last four years with more than 2,800 operating today, according to the Brewers Association

Meet A Local Craft Brewer  

One local entrepreneur willing to take on the craft beer industry is Cameron Fuller. 

Fuller has played an active role in Ohio Brew Week for the past four years.  During this time Fuller has won countless medals for his homemade beer including “Best of Show” in 2013.  Because of this recognition, Fuller finally gained enough confidence to go from brewing in his basement to starting his own business.  

“I remember the first time that they announced…for whatever medal…Cameron Fuller won!  Smile goes on my face.  Again…Cameron Fuller, bigger smile. By number four or five, I was just laughing because I couldn’t contain myself.  I was in a state of deliria and that’s when I drunkenly yelled, ‘I’m starting a brewery!’  I made it a public statement so I had to follow through,” Fuller said.  

Fuller first got into the brew business as a child.  He remembers growing up with his father who was an avid wine maker.

“I realize how big of an influence my dad was on me growing up–watching him make wine. I was the little kid stomping grapes, not realizing how influential that would be,” Fuller said.  

Now that Fuller has perfected his brew of barley and hops, he’s ready to share his masterpiece and thinks Athens is the perfect place to do so.  

“Living here for a couple years and meeting the locals, even the University, is a very strong local community. They really embrace local craft products,” Fuller said.  

Fuller is the founder of Devil’s Kettle Brewing; a taproom and brewery located on Columbus Road, set to open this March or April.  

Craft Beer in Ohio

Craft beer has not only made a name for itself in Athens but also across the state of Ohio.  There are more than 90 craft breweries in the state. According to the Brewers Association, the industry brought more than a million dollars in economic impact to Ohio in 2013.  The growing market has led to the creation of many craft brewing events such as the Columbus Winter Beerfest.  

This year was the 5th annual Columbus Winter Beerfest, which is a two-night festival that features more than 350 craft beers from all across the country. 

Craig Johnson is a co-founder of the Columbus Winter Beerfest.  Johnson wanted to give people the opportunity to taste-test craft beer on a grand scale.  

“You get to sample hundreds of different beers for one price; whereas, if you’re at a grocery store, are you really going to try that beer or style that you never heard of and plunk down $12.99 to try it?  This is where you get to have a taste of it,” Johnson said.  

According to Johnson, the Winter Beerfest started as a small event in Cincinnati with only 700 people in attendance, and now it’s expanded to fill large convention centers with more than 12,000 craft beer lovers.  Currently, the Columbus Winter Beerfest is one of the Top 15 craft brewing events in the country, Johnson said. 

“I think it’s the move back to local. What was once your normal bar hangout is now becoming a brew pub and they’re making beers and people are making much better beers.  You understand its roots a lot better. You’re having that interaction,” said Johnson.

Local Success Story 

One local brewery’s success making an impact in the Athens area is Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery, founded in 2005 by Art Oestrike and his friend Lenny Meyer.  The two bought a microbrewery in Athens for fun but robust growth led to Oestrike and Meyer to triple the size of the business.  

“I didn’t foresee any of this.  I kept my day job through all of this just to make sure I can pay the bills and what not and it’s really been amazing the support and growth we’ve got from around the state, region and country,” Oestrike said.    

Jackie O’s products can be found in more than 2,000 locations throughout Ohio including bars and grocery stores.  “There’s not been one day we’ve been able to keep up with demand in two years,” Oestrike said.  

Oestrike said the support from locals and the surrounding communities has been incredible, but he thinks the secret ingredient to good beer is being locally made.  

“We pour our hearts and souls into it. We make this product.  It’s not machines.  It’s not a large corporate entity.  It’s not something you can find in every single grocery store in the country.  It’s a locally-produced product in an industry that’s creating jobs left and right for people all over the place,” said Oestrike.  

The local craft beer industry has created more than just jobs for those brewing the beer.  Oestrike has recruited Athens’ farmers to also join the business.

“Art just came up to us one day and said you know, ‘Do you guys have some land somewhere if you guys want to grow some hops?'” farmer and Athens City Councilman Steve Patterson said.  “[I thought] it would be pretty cool to do something where we are contributing to the local economy, to our local beer world.”  

Local beer aficionados and craft brew fans will be eager to taste the new creations that Little Fish Brewing Co., Multiple Brewing Co. and Devil’s Kettle bring to market as they join Jackie O’s in contributing to southeast Ohio’s local beer world this summer.