April 17, 2014

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Rep. Ramos’ bill seeks to raise alcohol limits in craft brews

LORAIN — A bill expected to be reintroduced into the Ohio Legislature in early 2014 looks to grow Ohio’s brewing industry by giving brewers the ability to increase the amount of alcohol in beer from 12 percent to 21 percent.

“Ohio is at a competitive disadvantage compared to other states,” state Rep. Dan Ramos, D-Lorain, said Tuesday about the measure he plans to reintroduce come January.

Dan Ramos

Dan Ramos

“This is an industry with large growth at a time when so many industries have stagnated or shrunk in the recession,” Ramos said. “We want to make sure our folks in Ohio get a piece of the pie.”

Employing an estimated 108,000 people nationally, there are 2,500 craft brewers across America, with an estimated 1,500 brewers in the planning stages, according to CNBC figures cited by Ramos.

Allowing Ohio brewers to boost the percent of alcohol in beers by as much as 9 percent would put the state in a more attractive position when it comes to luring brewers looking to set up shop.

“Brewers look for good quality grains, which we have, as well as quality water and farmland, all of which we have in Ohio,” Ramos said.

The only nearby state with a similar limit is West Virginia.

“We’re one of very few states that has a cap on beer,” John Lane, owner of the 16 Northeast Ohio Winking Lizard Taverns, including one in Avon. “The state is missing out on tax dollars by having people go elsewhere.”

The 12 percent limitation on alcohol in beer prevents the sale of many popular specialty beers that are being increasingly requested by bar and restaurant customers, according to Lane.

“A lot of people cross state lines to get them,” Lane said.

Two of the most popular are 120 Minute and World Wide Stout, both brewed by Delaware’s Dogfish Head Brewery.

“They are extremely popular, and both are way over 12 percent,” Lane said.

Each brew is listed as having 15 to 20 percent, according to the company’s www.dogfish.com website.

“You can get them in Indiana, Michigan and Kentucky,” Lane said.

Another local supporter of the measure is Buckeye Canning Systems, a small Amherst firm that began offering mobile canning and packaging services to breweries in September, according to its www.mobilecanningsystems.com website.

The firm presently works with breweries in the Columbus and Toledo areas as well as Yellow Springs in the Dayton area.

“A lot of brewers enjoy being able to set themselves apart … to push the envelope,” according to Buckeye Canning’s Dan Blatt, who co-owns the small firm with B.J. Solomon. “We’re talking about specialty beers to be enjoyed after dinner or with a cigar.”

Noting such beers are expensive to produce, Blatt said there isn’t much worry that such high-volume alcohol drinks would lead to any sizable increase in inebriated customers.

“They’re not widespread,” Blatt said. “An 18 percent beer isn’t for college kids to get drunk on.”

Lane agreed.

“These beers are very full-bodied,” Lane said. “You’re not talking about the same person who slugs a cheap bottle of wine. ‘World Wide Stout’ costs $7 to $8 for a 12-ounce bottle.”

Ramos first introduced the bill last year but it failed to find adequate support.

“I used it to get the conversation going and we had eight co-sponsors,” Ramos said. “Now we’re up to 21.”

Support is fairly evenly split with 12 Democrats and nine Republicans supporting the measure, Ramos said.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.

  • Brian_Reinhardt

    If state reps from Indiana, Kentucky and PA all jumped off bridges would Mr. Ramos follow?

    • stillsleepyeyes

      I hope so………….

  • Macdaddyoh

    Fight for the right to smoke pot mr. ramos. It’s far less of a problem then a person having a 6 pack of 12% alcohol. God damn are you people stupid.

  • Joe Smith

    So they want to raise the amount of alcohol while there is talk of lowering the BAC limit for a DWI.

    So they are shooting to give a DWI after one beer or what?

  • Ex_Subscriber

    Mr. Blatt states “An 18 percent beer isn’t for college kids to get drunk on.” Sure, Mr. Blatt. Try going to an actual bar and watch younger patrons order. They aren’t “slugging down” PBR or Bud Light, sir, they are “pounding down” specialty and craft beers at $4 plus a pint, almost exclusively. I wouldn’t try to play the “too expensive” card here, because my observation is that most of these younger drinkers don’t seem to care about the cost, they’re either looking for the taste, or the drunk, or both.
    That said, Joe Smith makes a great point. Is the state trying to have it both ways? Make the beverages more potent, and the net result is an increase in DWI arrests? Wow, TWO increased revenue streams! There’s a concept. We can make it here, but don’t try and have one with your restaurant meal.

  • Heath J

    Or the government could just get the hell out of the way and not regulate alcohol…

    Crazy talk, I know.