Ohio Brew Week rolls back into Athens for it’s 11th year starting July 15. (

Ohio Brew Week Celebrates Local Growth

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ATHENS, Ohio — As brewers from around the state kick off this year’s Ohio Brew Week on Friday, the host city of Athens will get a chance to celebrate the growth of the industry locally.

Brad Clark, Director of Brewing Operations at Jackie O’s, remembers when they started a little over 10 years ago. New management took over the old O’Houlies Pub and created one of only 20 or so breweries in the state at the time.


Director of Brewing Operations Brad Clark stands in the front room of Jackie O's Campbell Street Brewery (Photo by Aaron Payne)
Director of Brewing Operations Brad Clark stands in the front room of Jackie O’s Campbell Street Brewery (Photo by Aaron Payne)

“We got the brewing system all back up and running and just started making beer,” Clark said. “It was exciting at that point in time because there was some neat things happening but it was still fairly quiet. We made some noise fairly early on and have been since.”

As Jackie O’s has expanded in the decade since, so has the craft beer industry in Ohio. The Buckeye State was home to 143 breweries producing a total of 1.3 million barrels in 2015, according to the Brewers Association.

A growing thirst for craft beer has driven the growth nationwide. The success in Ohio can be partially attributed to the perception of brewing as entrepreneurship, sparking bipartisan efforts at the statehouse to ease up on regulations based in the prohibition era.

“It’s neat to finally get some help and finally people are listening, thinking about these old laws and changing them,” Clark said. “We can do what we do a little easier, just make more, and grow at a faster clip without so many hurdles.”

One such piece of legislation from 2013 helped more usher more players into the game by creating a license designation specifically for “small brewer” brewing.

The number of breweries between 2013 and 2015 grew by 67, according to the Brewers Association.

Two of the new establishments to break in during that time were Little Fish Brewing and Devil’s Kettle Brewing in Athens.

Both operations give credit to the early breweries like Jackie O’s that paved the way and helped develop a blueprint for getting into the industry.

Photo courtesy of Little Fish Brewing Company

“When they started, there weren’t books on how to open a brewery and now there are,” Sean White, Co-Founder and Head Brewer and Little Fish Brewing said. “There’s a lot of help.”

The new breweries –now with over a year in operation– have continued to find help amongst their peers. A unique aspect of the industry has been the support amongst fellow brewers, who are technically the competition.

Cameron Fuller, Owner and Brewer at Devil’s Kettle, attributes the cooperation to the current open frontier-esque nature of the industry.

Devil's Kettle located on Columbus Road (Photo by Aaron Payne)
Devil’s Kettle located on Columbus Road (Photo by Aaron Payne)

“It’s not overly saturated already,” he said. “There’s plenty of room to find those new, kind of, niches, that aren’t overly saturated in Ohio already.”

There will likely be a day with the industry’s bubble bursts and breweries start to bow out or sell off to large operations.

All three Athens breweries will continue to work until that time toward their individual goals of expansion in different ways, whether it be reaching further with distribution or getting their name out more locally.

Another goal they all will work toward is using Ohio Brew Week to show the rest of the state that Athens can be a “can’t miss” for craft beer enthusiasts.

“It’s not just what happens during Brew Week,” White said. “It’s about growing that awareness with the other two breweries in Athens. I think we’re all on the same page about trying to make this a hub of craft beer.”

With the variety offered by each brewery and the outdoor tourism, locals are hoping visitors this week will get a taste of what southeastern Ohio has to offer.

Clark believes the key element to success is for each brewery to continually put out great beer.

“Everybody needs to focus on quality and keep things good. A rising tide floats all ships.”

To learn more about the festival, read this article from the WOUB Culture page, or visit