Just Follow the Barrels

Craft breweries popping up across the U.S. aren’t just good for the refined taste buds, but they are also great for local economies. Like many communities throughout the U.S., a major focus has transitioned to local growth and purchasing. And, although the major food markets might still handle the vast majority of food transactions, more people are looking to local farmers for produce, meat and other basic needs — such as beer.


Daily articles are being written about the growth of craft breweries nationwide, from cities like Memphis, Tenn. to the Mecca of craft breweries, the state of Oregon. More and more individuals are opening their eyes to the enjoyment of craft brews, and in turn assisting more local entrepreneurs.


In a recent article in by the Associated Press, we can see how craft breweries, as small businesses, can create a cultural buzz in places that were once desolate. The article states:

About 30 years ago, beer lovers wanting to create their own drinks started taking over abandoned old buildings in rundown city districts, refitted them with tanks, kettles and casks, and started churning out beer. The byproduct was a boom in craft beer drinkers: Barrels shipped have more than doubled in the past decade, according to trade publication Beer Marketer’s Insights. Craft beer now makes up nearly 7 percent of the slow-growing U.S. beer market.

But beer drinkers weren’t the only beneficiaries. The arrival of a craft brewery was also often one of the first signs that a neighborhood was changing. From New England to the West Coast, new businesses bubbled up around breweries, drawing young people and creating a vibrant community where families could plant roots and small businesses could thrive.

It happened in Cleveland. Once an industrial powerhouse, the Rust Belt city has been losing residents since the 1950s. Manufacturing jobs disappeared. The city nearly went bankrupt in 1978.

Marred by abandoned buildings and boarded-up stores after several hard decades, the downtown Ohio City neighborhood, just west of the Cuyahoga River, which divides Cleveland, was “perceived as dangerous and blighted” into the 1980s, says Eric Wobser. He works for Ohio City Inc., a nonprofit group that promotes development while trying to preserve the neighborhood’s older buildings.

Enter Great Lakes Brewing, which opened in 1988. Over the years, it’s built a brewery and a brewpub from structures that once housed a feed store, a saloon and a livery stable.

“We resurrected all of them,” says Pat Conway, who founded Great Lakes with his brother, Daniel. “We’ve beautified the neighborhood, provided a stunning restoration.”


To read more about craft breweries urban revival, go to CommercialAppeal.com.

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