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Ohio scraps ‘archaic and unnecessary’ limitation on alcohol content in beer

By   /   May 20, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

Raise a cold one, Ohio!

We get a lot of mileage out of poking and prodding the scolds, meddlers and nannies in government who think they know what people should want and whether they should get it. Today, though, it’s a rare opportunity to cheer a victory for consumer choice and free markets in Ohio, where a bill to scrap decades-old regulations on beer sales has landed on Gov. John Kasich’s desk.

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CHEERS: The Ohio House voted 88-9 this week to remove Ohio’s prohibition on beer with more than 12 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), freeing craft brewers to sell a wider range of products.

The state House voted 88-9 this week to remove Ohio’s prohibition on beer with more than 12 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), freeing craft brewers to sell a wider range of products to Ohioans.

The so-called ABV cap was set at 6 percent after the repeal of federal prohibition in 1933. For decades, it didn’t really matter, because the beer market mostly consisted of watery regional brews and a few big national brands with tame levels of alcohol.

In recent years, though, the nation has seen an explosion of craft beers – with bolder use of hops, deeper malts and higher levels of alcohol. Except in places like Ohio, where those beers have been off-limits.

In 2002, the state raised the cap to 12 percent. This time around, they removed it entirely.

“That is where a lot of the innovation and creativity comes from, with the high-ABV stuff,” Jason Davis, a vice president for BrewDog craft brewery told the Columbus Dispatch.

Davis had a direct interest in the outcome of the vote. BrewDog, a Scottish craft brewer, is building a $30 million brewery and distribution center in Columbus. Some of the brewery’s most popular beers are high alcohol content, like the Tokyo imperial stout, which boasts an ABV of more than 18 percent.

Following last week’s unanimous approval by the state Senate, Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, said the limitation was “archaic and unnecessary” because the state doesn’t have limitations on other forms of alcohol.

The lawmakers who sponsored the bill framed the change as a jobs issue, arguing it will make Ohio more attractive to craft breweries – an industry that grew by 13 percent last year and has been booming across the entire country for the past decade.

READ MORE: Obamacare regulations could be bad news for craft beer

But not everyone is cheering the change – there’s always someone who thinks the government should be in charge of consumers’ decisions, and Cleveland.com found him.

“There’s all kinds of spirits out there. I’ve never tasted high-alcohol beer; I like beer. I want three, four — not just one,” Dan Gates told the website. “In the alcohol world, we have plenty of alcohol with high percentage. Can they make a beer that’s 100 percent alcohol? What is that — grain alcohol?”

First of all: it’s impossible to make beer that’s 100 percent alcohol. That would, as Gates suggests, be grain alcohol, which isn’t beer – and also is legal in Ohio already because the state doesn’t regulate the alcohol content of spirits.

It might be hard to believe, but Gates is the former head of Ohio Brew Week, an annual celebration of beer in Athens.

Gates might want to have three or four beers at a time, and wisely chooses to consume lower-ABV beers when he does that. Does that mean all Ohioans should have to do what he does?

Thankfully that’s no longer the case.

The change won’t be official until 90 days after Kasich signs the bill, which means the stronger beers probably won’t be available in time for July’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where delegates who aren’t backing Donald Trump might wish they had access to stiffer drinks.

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