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Ohio limit on alcohol may chase off Stone Brewing Co.

on 22/09/14 at 9:21 am


indexOhio has something of a size problem.

Fans of “big” beers, those with an alcohol content of more than 8 percent, hit a low ceiling in Ohio. The state mandates that no beer made or sold here can be more than 12 percent alcohol.

That puts Ohio on uneven ground in the competition for craft-beer expansions, like the $31 million East Coast brewery planned by Stone Brewing Co. Columbus is in the running, but up against two cities in Virginia — Norfolk and Richmond — that are in a state that has no cap on what a brewer can do with beer.

It should be mentioned that almost all beer falls below 12 percent. Budweiser checks in at 5 percent, Guinness Draught at 4 percent and Yuengling Lager at 4.4 percent. Craft beers trend higher but rarely flirt with double-digit alcohol content. Stone’s Double Bastard Ale hits 10 percent, but its renowned Arrogant Bastard Ale is 7.2 percent.

Yet brewers crave freedom.

To this end, Ohio House Bill 391 would end the limit of 12 percent, pushing the cap to 21 percent and slipping beer into the ether between wine and liquor.

Beers with high alcohol content take longer to make and cost more, but they also let brewers explore flavors and complexity like never before, said Jason McKibben, brewmaster at North High Brewing Co.

“I don’t see any reason for a cap,” McKibben said. “There is no modern-day significance to having a limit on beer when wine and liquor is clearly over that limit.”