Local Breweries Continue Beneficial Relationship with the Community

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by Ethan Gates

In the small town of Athens resides three large breweries that the town has graciously welcomed into the community. JackiO’s, Devil’s Kettle, and Little Fish Brewery all have established their place at the forefront of Athens’ craft beer culture. The three have a harmonious relationship with each other; seeing one another as a family-ship instead of competitors.

The breweries rely heavily on the support from the community to help their businesses grow. Beau Nishimura, the tap room manager of Little Fish, estimates that seventy percent of their business comes from regulars. While the seasonal student population of the town does have some impact on business, Nishimura says Little Fish actually thrives in the summer. “Because we get a lot of faculty and staff that don’t have as many classes or as much to do, so they have more leeway to come out here with their families.”

JackiO’s already expanded its brewing facility on Stimson Avenue and Little Fish is currently building a new kitchen along with a 1600 square foot brewery expansion. This will enable the business to add another walk-in cooler, more dry storage and more room for barrels to increase production, according to Nishimura. Devil’s Kettle recently extended their patio and parking lot as well.

Athens has seen a fair share of businesses come and go over the years. Elder Beerman’s, a staple department store in Athens, announced its nationwide closing last week. Businesses in a town reliant on its seasonal student population always perpetuates uncertainty for success. “Restaurants always seem to be coming and going in this town,” President of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce Michelle Oestrike noted, “But anything that produces value-added food products is always popular.” The addition of a kitchen at Little Fish will be a new trial, but Nishimura says there are ready to take that venture on themselves.

Although all three breweries have been cemented in the Athens community, there is possibly room for more. Little Fish, Devil’s Kettle and JackiO’s each have their own unique distinct feel and vibe to them and don’t try to copy each other, creating potential for a new brewery with a different take on the industry. For now, the three breweries of Athens aren’t going anywhere.