Microbrewing is a viable contributor to economic development in Columbus.

Beer is good. Local beer is really good in more ways than you might think.

As central Ohio continues to grow, a key cog of the city’s economic success comes in the form of a keg—lots of kegs actually. Yes, the craft brew industry is one of the fastest growing engines of the central Ohio economy, turning hops into hope for many local entrepreneurs.

A decade ago, microbrewing was seen as a hobby. Today, the industry numbers would make even the most seasoned investor blush. Consider the findings of a recently released study from the Brewers Association, a national trade association representing small and independent craft brewers.

Market share among craft brewers has gone from 5.7 percent to 12.3 percent in five years. In 2009, craft brewers produced 9.1 million barrels in 2009. In 2016, that number spiked to 24.6 million barrels. That’s a 170 percent increase. The number of operating breweries in the United States have grown more than 16 percent, with 5,301 breweries in operation. All of these numbers would be higher if national breweries weren’t buying craft breweries in droves. Anheuser Busch has purchased 10 craft breweries in the last six years.

Brewing beer is big business, and central Ohio is at the forefront of this movement. By the end of 2017, more than 40 craft breweries will call central Ohio home. Seven of them opened in the last year. Three more craft breweries are in the planning stages, and we can only guess what people are planning in their homes or garages.

The craft brew industry employs nearly 130,000 people nationally, with many people leaving high paying jobs to brew up their version of the American Dream.

The beauty of beer is that it brings people together. Craft brewers are known for helping each other develop business plans, learn about supply chain management and find ways to scale more quickly. Instead of competing, this collaboration has grown the entire industry, giving room for everyone to enjoy a piece of the pie. There are more than 150 beer bars and growler shops in central Ohio, along with 300 restaurants that serve craft beer. According to the Brewers Association, 826 breweries opened last year. Only 97 failed—try finding that success rate in other areas of business.

The first brewery in Columbus was created in 1836 by Louis Hoster. More than 180 years later, the craft beer industry is in the midst of historic changes that will impact anyone living in central Ohio. Beer is good, and beer has a great future here in Columbus.

Justin Hemminger is the communications manager for the Ohio Craft Brewers Association. When not singing the praises of lagers and ales, he and his wife can occasionally be spotted in their Clintonville neighborhood walking a dopey-looking Norwegian Elkhound.

The Ohio Craft Brewers Association celebrates the essence of collaboration, creative thinking and entrepreneurial spirit with the third annual Columbus Craft Beer Week May 12-20. It culminates with Six One Pour: The Ohio Craft Beer Fest at Huntington Park. Sixty Ohio craft breweries will pour samples of their unique beers and everyone will celebrate 180 years of brewing history here in Columbus.