It turns out long-vacant manufacturing and retail buildings happen to make ideal locations for mash tuns and fermenter tanks. The greater Cleveland area has seen the number of craft breweries nearly double since 2013, now occupying a total of 530,000 square feet of real estate (Cleveland.com).
One such operation is the BottleHouse Brewing Company, which located in a former cold-storage building that was scheduled for demolition, and has since expanded with a second production space. The pioneer, and now the city’s most recognizable beer brand, was Great Lakes Brewing, which started production in 1988. Since opening in the then-depressed Ohio City neighborhood, its turnaround has been dramatic (USA Today).
Other breweries and businesses — a pasta maker, a bike shop, a tortilla factory, as well as restaurants and bars — followed. Newcomers are flocking to the neighborhood, even though Cleveland’s overall population is still declining. The city repaved the quiet street next to the brewery, Market Ave., with cobblestones, and poured millions into renovating the West Side Market, whose origins date back to the 19th century. Today, more than 100 vendors sell produce, meat, cheese and other foods there.
But why the recent brewery boom? In 2012, Ohio passed a law eliminating the need for additional licenses to operate onsite taprooms. This has reduced costs and made it easier to sell directly to customers, thus increasing production. And while the national small business-lending landscape remains capital-starved, Cleveland’s small brewers are bucking the trend. Their ramped-up production has caught the attention of banks, which are now more willing to lend to enterprising brewers. In fact, BottleHouse Brewing owner Brian Benchek regularly turns down private-equity investors who want him to expand, preferring to keep things manageable and focused on serving his neighbors.