State Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes is going brewery hopping.
The Democratic lawmaker from Akron will co-host a brewery tour Thursday (April 20) in partnership with the Akron/Summit Convention and Visitors Bureau to learn more about and help promote the local brewing industry.
The tour, set for 4 to 7 p.m., will hit Ohio, Hoppin’ Frog, Thirsty Dog and R. Shea in the city.
Sykes said she hopes it will spark a deeper discussion about the industry's growing role in tourism and economic development in the state, and the impact of a proposed hike and expansion of the excise tax on beer and wine in the next biennial budget. Gov. John Kasich’s administration has estimated that the tax would amount to an additional one cent for every can of beer and glass of wine.
Sykes noted that the tax wouldn't extend to spirits and would disproportionately hit the working class.
"It's just unfair," she said, adding that it would have a negative impact on small businesses such as craft brewers and harm beer tourism.
Sykes isn't the only lawmaker going on the tour. House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn, D-Dayton, and Democratic Reps. Thomas West of Canton, Glenn Holmes of McDonald, Michael O'Brien of Warren, Kent Smith of Euclid and John Rogers of Mentor also are attending.
The lawmakers want to hear directly from brewery owners about the industry and potential impact of the tax increase, Sykes said.
Thirsty Dog co-owner John Najeway is welcoming the visit.
“I hope that she sees we’re a big player in jobs for Akron and jobs for Ohio,” he said.
Ohio -- which has helped the craft industry by lowering the cost of a brewing permit and doing away with the alcohol limit in beer in recent years -- has seen tremendous growth in breweries. There were 49 in 2011 and there more than 200 today.
The Akron area also has seen many breweries open – so many that the local Visitors Bureau this year launched the Summit Brew Path, a passport program that encourages beer drinkers to visit them all. It was only the second beer trail of its kind in the state.
The National Beer Wholesalers Association and Beer Institute estimated in 2014 – before much of the growth in breweries -- that the beer industry had an annual direct economic impact of $4.5 billion in Ohio. The industry also paid $377 million in consumption taxes, and an additional $1.4 billion in business and personal taxes.