A new law in Ohio allowing breweries to make and sell beer exceeding 12% in alcohol by volume took effect last week, eliminating a cap that outlawed higher strength beers in the state. Earlier this year, there were efforts to raise the limit to 21%, but this repeal removes the ceiling entirely.
WHY IT MATTERS
Disallowing the sale of high-octane beer is a little nanny state-ish, but ABV caps do much more tangible damage than just depriving drinkers of something they want. First and foremost, they put a stranglehold on what a brewery can do creatively. Craft beer has exploded in popularity the way it has in no small part because brewers have pushed the limits of what beer can be. As Ohio State Rep. Mike Duffey said of the issue, “Brewing is an art form…rare and complex beers are often reputation builders and some of the most revered and sought after by customers.” Not only that, but caps deter out-of-state breweries that distribute in Ohio. One local story about the issue leads with a triumphant anecdote of a 120 Minute IPA from Dogfish Head being cracked open at a local bar for the very first time. What a time to be alive.
These are the obvious and blatant problems with caps. But there are other less obvious, more important concerns. When Stone Brewing was looking for its new east coast location, Columbus—Ohio’s capital—was very much in the running. Stone, of course, has become the craft beer powerhouse it is because of its reputation for making boundary-pushing beers with attitude. That put Ohio at a distinct disadvantage in courting the company, where in Richmond, Virginia, a few hundred miles east, no such cap exists. Guess where Stone landed? And it’s more than bold beer they’re taking with them—they’re bringing nearly 300 local jobs.
Meanwhile, in Mississippi, they celebrate being able to get beer at 10%—prior to 2013, that limit was 6.25%. In Georgia, the limit's 14%, but only since 2004. There’s still work to be done.