Ohio Craft Brewers Association Fights for Advocacy in Franchise-Law State

Published: January 30, 2023

A few months ago we shared the four biggest benefits of joining your local brewers guild.

Your local guild does everything from fighting for better industry laws on your behalf to creating a network of reliable resources available at your fingertips. Brewery guilds even bear the grunt work of hosting festivals and events meant to promote you and your beer within the state.

Guilds are an absolutely invaluable resource for breweries in a certain state or region.

With that in mind, we’re setting out to put the spotlight on guilds across the country, highlighting their missions, initiatives, events, and immeasurable work in their respective communities.

We’re starting with the Ohio Craft Brewers Association, who will be hosting their annual Ohio Craft Brewers Conference at the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland from Jan. 31, 2023, to Feb. 1, 2023.

(Photography courtesy of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association)

What Is the Mission of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association?

Two people sitting at a table enjoying different styles of craft beer in glasses

Photography courtesy of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association

Ohio Craft Brewers Association Deputy Director Justin Hemminger probably sums it up the best, “Our state mission is to promote, preserve, diversify, and unify Ohio’s craft brewing industry.”

Hemminger says that the guild focuses on four pillars—political and regulatory advocacy, educational resources for members, networking opportunities between breweries and members of the industry such as suppliers, and events.

It’s a mission that has resonated with the 321 out of 421 breweries in the state that are currently members.

No matter the size.

Craft beer in Ohio encompasses everyone from Sam Adams to a guy brewing on a 1-bbl system in his garage,
Mary MacDonald - Executive Director - Ohio Craft Brewers Association

Together the OCBA has been like a rising tide lifting all boats for craft beer in Ohio.

“We punch above our weight limit,” says MacDonald. “We have a consistent record of winning medals from our largest breweries to our smallest breweries.”

According to MacDonald, Ohio breweries picked up fifteen medals at the World Beer Cup and eight at the Great American Beer Festival last year.

But beyond racking up medals, breweries in the OCBA have access to a ton of immeasurable benefits.

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What Are the Benefits for Ohio Craft Brewers Association Members?

Graphic of beer in glass displaying text "What are they benefits of OCBA membership?"

Photography courtesy of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association

According to the OCBA’s website, the benefits of being a brewery member include everything “from marketing and promoting Ohio Craft Beer and breweries to creating exceptional events starring our members, to lobbying on behalf of the craft brewing industry to protect your investment to fostering the camaraderie for which the craft beer community is renowned.”

Overall, the OCBA is working for its Ohio state breweries 24/7, 365 days out of the year.

First-year dues are $200 and increase to $500 annually after the first year for breweries producing 2,500 bbls or fewer per year. If you’re a brewery-in-planning, dues are $200/year.

The OCBA membership includes the following benefits:

  • No state excise tax (savings = annual bbl production x $5.58)
  • GABF/World Beer Cup shipping (save hundreds when you go with group shipments)
  • Discount on OCBA events/programs
  • Preferred vendor relationships (employee benefits, energy suppliers, managed care organizations)
  • Your brewery listed on the Ohio On Tap brewery passport mobile app (60k+ downloads since May 2017, 95% of breweries see positive ROI from passport traffic)
  • Branded merchandise discounts and royalties
  • Legislative lobbying on your behalf - past wins include an A-1c permit established, 12% ABV cap removed, and HB 674 and SB 102)
  • Regulatory advocacy - OCBA staff maintains relationships and open lines of communication with Ohio Division of Liquor Control, Department of Agriculture, and other state regulators
  • Federal affairs - OCBA works with the Brewers Association and other state guilds to advocate for Ohio breweries in Washington, D.C.
  • Discounted admission to the Ohio Craft Brewers Conference, which attracts 80-100 exhibitors annually
  • Educational sessions - one-hour seminars prior to the quarterly membership meetings and webinars held throughout the year
  • Your brewery logo, info, and link on
  • Your brewery listed on the regional beer trail in the Ohio on Tap Magazine
  • Discounted ad rates in Ohio on Tap Magazine, which has 100k+ copies printed annually in July
  • Monthly updates emailed to members - industry updates the first week of each month, committee reports sent mid-month
  • Invitations to quarterly and annual meetings plus other OCBA gatherings
  • Invitation to participate in all OCBA Signature Events (Winter Warmer Fest, Six One Pour, etc.)
  • Participation in OCBA’s Workers Comp group rating program
  • Access to OCBA’s health insurance market portal for breweries
  • Your brewery listed in the OCBA Member Directory
  • OCBA Member and Partner Directory
  • Promotion on our social media accounts (reach 18k IG followers, 11k FB followers, and 7k Twitter followers)
  • Voting membership in the OCBA (board elections, bylaws)
  • License to use OCBA trademarked logos (guidelines apply)
  • Ohio Craft Brewers Association window decal
  • Ohio Craft Brewers Association lapel pin

With such a lofty overall mission, the OCBA has set its sights high in the new year.

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What Are the Goals of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association in 2023?

A long flight of craft beers in an iron handle tray

Photography courtesy of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association

Specifically in 2023, the OCBA will be concentrating on two different areas.

First and foremost, “we have some steep advocacy goals because Ohio is still a franchise law state,” says MacDonald. “We don’t want that to be true anymore for our small breweries.”

This is one of the biggest benefits of joining a guild—having an organization that consistently fights for legislation that supports craft breweries.

“Events are one thing we do, but it’s almost the smallest thing we do,” says MacDonald. “At the heart we’re a membership organization, so we really focus on helping breweries.”

That was perhaps most evident during the thick of the global pandemic.

In 2020, MacDonald says her and Hemminger watched the Ohio governor every day for three months in a row, absorbing the latest information pertinent to breweries and delivering it to their members in a coherent way so instead of worrying about answering all these questions they could keep “making beer and driving beer to their customers,” she says.

And it’s through that traumatic time that the OCBA went into overdrive, generating creative ideas to help breweries keep the lights on.

“Everyone panics,” says MacDonald. “We couldn’t hold public events; we couldn’t hold tastings… What could we do?

The OCBA stepped in, establishing Ohio Pint Day and a collaboration beer called From the Heart.

Both of these successful events will be on deck for 2023 along with a couple returning festivals and an entirely new week called Ohio On Tap, the second biggest focus for the guild this year.

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The 6 OCBA Events You Can’t Miss This Year

A promotional photo for the Six One Pour event from the Ohio Craft Brewers Association

Photography courtesy of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association

The OCBA has a whole slate of amazing events planned for 2023.

Winter Warmer Fest

First up on March 4, 2023, will be the Winter Warmer Fest.

One of the biggest events in Cleveland, Winter Warmer Fest is also the OCBA’s longest-running festival, entering its sixteenth year.

“The people of Cleveland love it, the breweries love it, everyone gets excited about it,” says MacDonald.

Typically featuring fifty-five to sixty breweries, Winter Warmer Fest always sells out at just under 2,000 tickets.

“Breweries do a great job of bringing stellar beers,” shares MacDonald. “They have a little competition to one up each other; no one wants to bring garbage to Winter Warmer because you will be shamed by your peers.”

This year, for the first time the OCBA will be hosting Warmer’s Eve on Friday, March 3, 2023. An elevated experience, this special night will feature only eighteen breweries each bringing two of their most exclusive beers.

Six One Pour

Named after the Columbus area code (614), Six One Pour is another big Ohio festival usually taking place in a local museum or other venue showcasing fifty-plus of the state’s best breweries.

Logo for From the Heart a beer collaboration featuring breweries from the Ohio Craft Brewers Association

Photography courtesy of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association

From the Heart Collaboration Beer

A collaboration beer inspired by a similar idea from the Maine Brewers’ Guild, From the Heart is a recipe shared across all OCBA brewery members.

The OCBA reached out to Country Malt and Origin Malt, who donate all the ingredients so any participating brewery can buy the ingredient at cost. Similarly, Blue Label Packaging takes care of and prints all the labels for participating breweries.

Then, all the breweries simultaneously release their version of the beer at the same time. Usually in May, according to MacDonald.

“This is our most successful non-public event for the organization,” she says.

Ohio On Tap Week

A completely new event this year, Ohio On Tap Week will be a statewide craft beer week that ties into the state’s brewery passport app. Consumers can download the free Ohio On Tapp app here and get rewards for visiting Ohio breweries.

Basically, folks just need to visit a brewery, drink a beer, stamp their virtual passport, and get cool prizes.

“A major goal [this year] is to figure out Ohio On Tap Week, fully flesh that out, and have it be successful for our brewers and our app,” says MacDonald, noting that the app is a major method of communication for OCBA to the public.

Ohio Pint Day

An event born out of the pandemic, Ohio Pint Day is a coordinated night that lets people take home a local artist-designed, collectible glass at breweries across the state.

Last year, Hemminger says Ohio breweries sold around 13,000 glasses with a portion of each sale donated back to the OCBA.

“It’s a really great way to drive traffic to taprooms,” says Hemminger, noting they host Ohio Pint Day on a potentially slow day like Tuesday. “A lot of breweries told us this is the best Tuesday we’ve ever had… It’s a really great way to get people excited about going to visit their local brewery.”

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How Can I Join the Ohio Craft Brewers Association?

If you’re a brewery or brewery-in-planning in Ohio interested in joining the OCBA, it’s pretty easy.

Just visit here to learn more and fill out the sign-up form.


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Hedashot for Grace Weitz, Managing Editor for Hop Culture and Untappd

About The Author

Grace Lee-Weitz

Grace is the Managing Editor for Hop Culture and Untappd. She also organizes and produces the largest weeklong women in craft beer festival in the country, Beers With(out) Beards and the first-ever festival celebrating the colorful, vibrant voices in the queer community in craft beer, Queer Beer.

An avid craft beer nerd Grace always found a way to work with beer. After graduating with a journalism degree from Northwestern University, she attended culinary school before working in restaurant management. She moonlighted as a brand ambassador at 3 Sheeps Brewing Co on the weekends before moving into the beer industry full-time as an account coordinator at 5 Rabbit Cerveceria.

Grace holds her Masters degree in the Food Studies program at NYU.

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