Goddamn it, Ohio. We love you; we live in you, but you’re embarrassing us and yourself. Would you just pass House Bill 68 already? It’s hurting our reputation as an American brew hub (which we definitely are), killing jobs and punching our economy in the proverbial gonads. House Bill 68 proposes to increase Ohio’s outdated 12 percent alcohol-by-volume (ABV) restriction on beer to 21 percent. Why does that matter? Because the old law is chasing away global-focused brewing brands wanting to set up in our populous state as well as limiting all of the great breweries already here.
Of course, MillerCoors and its red right hand have a supporting role in the roadblock. Maybe you didn’t know, but MillerCoors also brews in Ohio.
Let’s inspect last week’s embarrassment: The Ohio Division of Liquor Control said that BrewDog USA won’t be able to produce its high-alcohol beers at its new brewery in Canal Winchester, Ohio — at least as long as the state’s ABV cap remains in place — according to the awesome blog Ohio Breweries. Yes, if you haven’t heard, the TV-famous Scottish craft brewers from BrewDog are setting up shop in Columbus. It’s investing $32.5 million to build a brewery and pub/restaurant called Dogtap in the suburban Columbus community. The site will also be the main brewing operations for all of BrewDog USA, looking to generate some 125 jobs.
Question: Why are we holding BrewDog back? Better question: Why are we holding home-bred, Ohio-based brewing companies back?
Remember how we screwed the pooch with Stone Brewing Co.? Back in 2014, Stone was shopping the same Columbus, Ohio, for its new East Coast brewing operations. Richmond, Va., won out of over Columbus. Why? According to a previous CBB article: That 12 percent ABV law probably worked itself into the equation, along with Virginia’s ultra-friendly brewing business environment (we loved how the Virginia Economic Development Partnership actually had a booth at last year’s Craft Brewers Conference).
Our point: Ohio, your old timey ABV laws are putting you on uneven ground in the competition for craft beer expansions. Why don’t you just change it? Well, apparently time and MillerCoors are trying to stop the craft beer train (not this snowpiercer, of course). According to Cleveland.com:
[House Bill 68] has bi-partisan support in the legislature as well as backing from brewers, from Paul Benner at Platform Beer Co. in Cleveland to Fred Karm at Hoppin’ Frog Brewery in Akron as well as the Ohio Craft Brewers Association. The bill’s limited opposition appears relegated to MillerCoors, which voiced official, albeit not very vociferous, arguments last year.
But its biggest foe again is time. When a general assembly’s term runs out, legislation is scrapped and — if support remains — it must start from scratch. Primary sponsor of the alcohol-ceiling limit bill, in its third incarnation is Sen. Dan Ramos, D-Lorain [Update and Editor’s Note: Ramos is actually in the House, correction via the informative Ian Mugford].
“It’s sort of stopped,” Ramos said. “I spoke with chairman Brown, and he wanted to shake the trees and see where the opposition is, but it’s stopped.”
Holy hell, Ohio, pull your shit together, figure out the process and pass House Bill 68 already. It’s hurting your economy, and it’s hurting your access to new craft beers actually brewed inside of your state. And why? Well, MillerCoors has a theory. From that same excellent Cleveland.com article:
Trenton, Ohio, just north of Columbus, is home to one of MillerCoors’ eight U.S. breweries. It produces Miller Lite, Coors Light, Miller High Life and Third Shift. The latter, an amber lager, contains the highest alcohol level of the bunch, a moderate 5.3 percent.
In its opposition testimony last year, MillerCoors said raising the limit could “confuse” residents who have come to expect a lower alcohol percentage in beer and considers it a “beverage of moderation.”
Confusion? Yeah, confusion is definitely MillerCoors’ main purpose here. Don’t be confused. Craft brewers and craft brew fans should make their voices heard, write their congressional leaders and tell their beer friends: Pass House Bill 68, or you’re limiting Ohio’s potential to be a global beer center.