A bill in the Ohio House of Representatives seeks to bolster Ohio breweries by allowing them to increase the maximum alcohol by volume from 12 to 21 percent the beer they produce.
State Rep. Dan Ramos (D-Lorain) re-introduced legislation in December, after it failed in 2011, with economic development in mind.
"The brewing industry is one of the few sectors that continued to experience growth through the recession. It is time Ohio abandons unnecessary regulations that put us at a competitive disadvantage with other states and do whatever we can to encourage the further growth of these businesses," said Ramos in a statement announcing the legislation.
Ramos notes that less than 10 states across the country even limit ABV content in beer, and there are plenty of higher-proof alcohol options on grocery and liquor store shelves in Ohio.
The bill has yet to move out of committee, but has managed to garner support from both Republicans and Democrats in the state. So far, 12 Democrats, including Ramos, and nine Republicans are in support of the bill.
In January, the Columbus Dispatch reported that Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine cautioned legislators to consider how raising the limit could impact drunken driving. The report also contained statements from Marcie Seidel, executive director of the Drug Free Action Alliance, who said people may wind up getting more intoxicated than they realize from the higher-percentage beverages.
With the details out of the way, it's time for my two cents.
I see this bill only helping to level the playing field between Ohio and out-of-state breweries, and increasing our already eclectic options of craft beer.
High-alcohol beverages are already out there, and if someone wants a nice stiff drink, there's nothing to stop them from acquiring one. In my experiences, folks who consume craft beer enjoy educating themselves about what they are drinking, including the ingredients and alcohol content. They also appreciate quality over quantity, and seem to be in tune with the fact that higher-alcohol beers are going to impair our abilities faster.
The craft beer market is exploding exponential, and Ohio is doing well to reform the system and facilitate that growth. Just last year, the state rolled back permit restrictions for brewery operations, making it less cumbersome to launch into the industry. Let's not take a step backwards and stymie the boom.
All that aside, I can think of a more than a few occasions a heavy-alcohol stout would've made this winter a little more enjoyable.
Read the full bill for yourself at www.legislature.state.oh.us/bills.cfm?ID=130_HB_391. And, if you feel this makes sense, as I do, please contact your representative. The Ohio Craft Beer Association is making it easy to show your support: www.ohiocraftbeer.com/news/hb391.cfm
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