Ohio Craft Brewers Association trade show targets brewery needs

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Chris Verich wasn’t wearing his brewery-owner cap at the Ohio Craft Brewers Association’s annual conference this week.

Instead, the owner of Cuyahoga Falls-based Ohio Brewing Co. was touting the Ohio Lottery, his other day job.

“We just started signing up breweries,” he said.

It’s one example of how the brewing industry’s tentacles reach into other businesses.

Railroad Brewing Co. in Avon, The Brew Kettle in Amherst and several in Cincinnati and Columbus have signed on to be a lottery host, which includes the ability to offer games like Keno. That simple wagering-numbers game offers players a chance to guess which numbers will pop up in a random drawing held multiple times throughout the day. The more of a player’s numbers that come up, the better the payout.

Business owners receive a 5.5% commission on Keno.

Having lottery offerings set up is an initial step for places to eventually offer sports wagering, Verich said.

“I’m hoping lottery retailers can become sports wagerers,” he said.

The Ohio Lottery’s booth was one of dozens at the trade show of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association’s annual conference, held this week at the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland. In its largest conference yet, the OCBA gathering drew more than 700 attendees, said the non-profit’s deputy director Justin Hemminger.

Tuesday, economist Bart Watson addressed the brewers, brewery owners and other business folks. But the trade show offers a chance to see a range of products affecting the industry – from equipment tap handles, workers-compensation information to promotional items like glassware, stickers, hats and more.

The ever-increasing competitive market is making craft-beer movers and shakers keep up with the times. That means not only in the styles of beer they are making but in how they are doing business.

B.J. Solomon, who operates Iron Heart Canning in multiple regions, has expanded his mobile-unit business to also handle non-beer products – including drinks with cannabis.

Two years ago he said his mobile equipment, which he takes to breweries without dedicated canning lines, handled about 80% breweries and 20% other businesses. Now, he said, that ratio is 50-50.

“It’s been a wild ride,” he said. “All good.”

The Ohio Craft Brewers Association’s annual Winter Warmer Fest, a fundraiser for the organization, is coming up Saturday, March 4, at Windows on the River in Cleveland’s Flats.

Related coverage

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Winter Warmer Fest expanding for 2023; tickets on sale this month

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