Legislation would allow Ohio to brew stronger beer

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19/AP) - Legislation in the Ohio House would allow production and sale of beer with higher alcohol content in the state.

House Bill 391 would increase the maximum percentage from 12 to 21 percent. Democratic Rep. Dan Ramos has been promoting the measure, saying Ohio brewers need to be able to use the higher alcohol content to compete with beer in other states. The higher-alcohol beer couldn't have caffeine or other stimulants in it.

Ramos has bipartisan support from 20 co-sponsors in his latest effort to increase the beer's punch.

Twelve percent of anything doesn't sound like much. However, in Ohio, it's a large percentage for beer, capping the amount of alcohol allowed in your favorite pint.

House Bill 391 is out to change that number from 12 to 21 percent.

"I think it's a good thing overall for the entire industry, especially with independent breweries such as this popping up. It brings a lot of good things to our city," said Chris Anthony, who lives in Anderson Twp.

Those breweries are popping up everywhere. In 2012, there were 58 of them in Ohio. That number now sits at 90. Rhinegeist in Over-the-Rhine is one of them, opening their doors in 2013.

"We would be brewing beers other states would be envious of and want to come get, and beer tourism is an evolving industry here as more breweries pop up," said Bryant Goulding of Rhinegeist.

But, upping the alcohol by volume, or ABV, is also upping some concerns over things like serving size, drinking and driving and high-risk drinking.

"Does this encourage or promote or in some way make it easier for folks to binge drink or participate in heavy drinking?" asks Mary Haag of the Coalition for a Drug-Free Greater Cincinnati.

The plan is aimed at economic growth in an already growing industry.

Michael Schieman moved to Montana from Ohio about 10 years ago.  He's seen great support for the brewing community there, and is hoping the same happens here through this bill.

"A lot of people were backing the local job industry, supporting local people in Missoula, creating jobs," Schieman told FOX19.

Fewer than 10 states limit ABV in beer, according to an article published on the Ohio House of Representatives website. Of the state bordering Ohio, only West Virginia has a cap on beer, also at 12 percent.

The bill is on its way to a House committee for review.

To view the legislation, click here: http://www.legislature.state.oh.us/bills.cfm?ID=130_HB_391

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