Published: Sunday, 6/8/2014 – Updated: 2 minutes ago
BY BOB CUNNINGHAMBLADE STAFF WRITER
Bar manager Lenny Kromer and bartender Taylor Fletcher fill glasses with beer at the Catawba Island Brewing Co.’s Tasting Room in Port Clinton, Ohio.THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge | Buy This Photo
Some call them tasting rooms. Others call them taprooms. No matter the name, they’re what keep the doors open at area craft breweries.
Tasting rooms are not a new option for small Ohio breweries, but it was a change in the state liquor law that came into effect in 2013 that has spurred growth in the niche beer industry at the local level.
It used to be that breweries had to fork over $3,906 annually for a liquor license and an additional $3,906 to operate a tasting room. But last year the fee for the tasting room was reduced to $1,000 to help craft brewers grow.
● Catawba Island Brewing Co.Open 4-10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday; 1-6 p.m. Sunday.Address: 2330 E. Harbor Rd., Port ClintonPhone: 419-960-7764Website: catawbaislandbrewing.com● Findlay Brewing Co.Open 5 to 10 p.m. Friday.Address: 227 ½ N. Main St., FindlayPhone: 419-722-7395Website: findlaybrewingcompany.com● Flatrock Brewing Co.Open 4-10 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 3-10 p.m. Saturday.Address: 215 Railway Ave., HolgatePhone: 419-966-1440Website: flatrockbrewery.com● Sugar Ridge BreweryOpen 5-10 p.m. Thursday; 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.Address: 17745 N. Dixie Hwy., Bowling GreenPhone: 419-373-6553Website: sugarridgebrewery.net
Craft breweries opening in Bowling Green, Findlay, Port Clinton, and even tiny Holgate are all the proof needed that the price reduction has been a success.
“When we first opened, we had to pay the four grand for the A1 [liquor license] and then we were contacted when we were going to renew for 2013 that it went down to $1,000,” said Lawrence Pritchard III, head brewer at Flatrock Brewing Co. in Holgate. “So that helped out a lot because our profit margins are razor thin, because we don’t make a lot of beer. We could use that extra money to expand our brewing operations.”
Steve Treece, one of six founding partners at Findlay Brewing Co., agreed.
“In fact, that’s what’s kind of helped us stay in business is that lower fee,” Treece said. “It’s just about $4,000 and we paid that our first year of existence and we were pretty happy that we didn’t have to pay that again a year later.”
Bartender Sherri Daver pours a Sylvania Stout for a customer at Sugar Ridge Brewery in Bowling Green.THE BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH Enlarge | Buy This Photo
Another reason the tasting room has become so popular is the short distance between keg and customer. Not only does that result in a freshness that’s hard to duplicate at proper pubs and restaurants, but instantaneous feedback is a brewer’s best friend.
“We sit and talk about it across the bar,” said Mike Mullins, owner and brewer of Sugar Ridge Brewing Co. in Bowling Green.
And that makes for a comfortable environment to enjoy craft beer.
“Our tasting room is very laid back, low-key,” said Cindy Gunderson, a partner at Catawba Island Brewing Co. in Port Clinton. “It doesn’t matter if you’re 25, you’re going to relax and enjoy yourself, or if even you’re 65. I love the diversity.”