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MINSTER — Rick Armon began writing about beer more than 12 years ago, when the features editor at the Democrat and Chronicle asked him to start a beer column.
“At the time, I was the public affairs editor — I was dealing with politics, the Washington Bureau, the statehouse bureau — and she (the features editor) comes over to me and says, ‘We’re thinking about starting a beer column and we want you to write it,’” he said to a crowd packed at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Minster Saturday night for Bock and Rock’s Beers of Ohio, noting he was chosen because he drank a lot of good beers.
Armon has since gone on to write a book, “Ohio Breweries,” about breweries across the state and noted it is a “phenomenal time to be a beer drinker in Ohio.”
“We’re going through an incredible explosion of brewery openings in the state,” he said.
“When I traveled around and visited all the breweries, there were 49 breweries in Ohio — that’s not counting the private ones that you and I can’t get in ... We’ve seen in the last year, 15 breweries open up in Ohio and there are many, many more slated to open up, as well.”
Changes in regulations for brewers has allowed more smaller breweries to open in Ohio, he said.
“Before this year, if you were a brewery and you wanted to have a tasting room, you had to pay an extra $3,900 license to have a tasting room,” Armon said. “Earlier this year, the state did away with that fee, which has allowed a lot of smaller breweries to open up tasting rooms, which means you can now go visit them.”
Breweries, which were once generally focused in the Cleveland area, are beginning to spread throughout the state.
“When I traveled around, there were more breweries in Northeast Ohio than there were in Toledo, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati combined,” he said. “Now, we’re seeing this incredible explosion of breweries in Columbus, in Dayton and in Cincinnati, as well. One of the good things is, you’re also seeing a lot of breweries opening up in smaller areas.”
Nationally, Ohio is a “huge player” in the brewery industry, Armon said, noting there are more than 2,000 breweries across the country.
“When you look around the state, we’ve got Anheuser-Busch here, we’ve got MillerCoors here, we’ve got Sam Adams here,” he said. “We’re the only state that has all the breweries here making beer ... Now we’ve got all these little breweries opening that are just going to add to Ohio’s reputation as being a spot for beer.”
In addition to breweries opening shop across the state, brewers are also stocking their beers at grocery stores as the craft brewing industry continues to grow.
“Nowadays, you can see beers from all over the world at your local grocery store, which is absolutely phenomenal,” he said. “The craft beer industry has really taken off. It’s growing at a double-digit pace over the last five or six years.”
Armon presented five beers to attendees of Beers of Ohio, — The Brew Kettle’s White Rajah, Hoppin’ Frog Brewery’s Hoppin’ Frog B.O.R.I.S, Rockmill Brewery’s Witbier, Mt. Carmel Brewing Co.’s Nut Brown Ale and The Rivertown Brewery’s Helles Lager — providing insight and background information about the breweries and their different beers and answering questions from the crowd. Bock and Rock Chair Joe Cavanaugh touted the variety of beers offered for attendees to sample.
“I think half the beers here are all beers that are not available in the area,” Cavanaugh told The Evening Leader, noting all the beers at the event are from Ohio breweries. “It was extremely hard to select the beers we wanted to have here.”
Following Armon’s presentation, attendees were treated to a selection of food and 25 beers to try.
“Five local restaurants and IGA have donated food for the event,” Cavanaugh said, noting the food was donated by Flavors on Elm, Willy’s Tavern, Wooden Shoe, Cottage Café and Wagner’s IGA. “Then, people have the opportunity to try 25 different beers. We have all different styles.”
Beers of Ohio, he said, is a fundraiser for the Minster Civic Association.
“The Minster Civic Association does some great things for the whole area,” he said. “It’s amazing how much they do.”
For more information about the Minster Civic Association’s Bock and Rock, visit BockAndRock.com.