The Ohio Craft Brewers Association is backing a state bill that would increase the amount of alcohol allowed in beer.
The association’s board voted this week to support House Bill 391, which would boost the state limit from 12 percent to 21 percent.
The group said it will now forward a letter to state Rep. Dan Ramos, D-Lorain, who introduced the measure.
The association hadn’t taken an official stance on the bill, but it wasn’t because the group was opposed.
Members wanted the board to vote on the issue to make an official statement, said President Eric Bean, owner and brewer at Columbus Brewing Co.
“I think this will be a hot topic for the year,” he said.
He added that brewers still wonder why the state would cap the limit at 21 percent. Many states have no limit.
Despite the proposed cap, John Najeway, co-owner of Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. in Akron, said: "We are in support of raising it."
The 12 percent limit means stronger beers can’t be brewed or sold in the state. Some Ohio brewers say that stifles their creativity and even puts them at a competitive disadvantage.
Brewers and retailers in southern Ohio have noted beer drinkers can hop across the Ohio River to Kentucky to buy beers such as Samuel Adams Utopias and Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA, which aren’t available in Ohio.
Brent Halsey, co-owner of the new Zaftig Brewing Co. in Columbus, said he’s supportive of the measure. His brewery wants to focus on full-bodied, big beers.
“We definitely want to be brewing beers in the higher range,” he said.
Ramos said he’s optimistic that the bill will be approved.
The proposal originally surfaced in the state budget bill in 2011, but was yanked at the last minute. Ramos then introduced legislation that went nowhere. He has reintroduced the bill and said it has more support than before.
There are 21 co-sponsors and bipartisan support, he noted.
Ramos added that he hasn’t heard much negative feedback about the effort. He attended a legislative open house Tuesday at Elevator Brewing Co. in Columbus. The event was organized by the association.
“You guys are one of the few growing industries,” Ramos told Angelo Signorino, brewer at Barley’s Brewing Co. and Barley’s Smokehouse & Brewpub in Columbus.
The bill has been assigned to the Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee.