Ohio Governor Says ‘Cheers’ to Beer Deregulation Bill

Published June 27, 2016

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) has signed a law removing government restrictions on the potency of beer sold in the state, giving beer drinkers a reason to raise a glass in celebration of free-market principles.

House Bill 37, introduced by state Reps. Mike Duffey (R-Worthington) and Michael Stinziano (D-Columbus) in February 2016, takes effect in late August, removing government restrictions capping the percentage of alcohol by volume (ABV) on beer produced or sold in Ohio.

The bill will also allow Ohioans to purchase and consume beer or liquor in some market districts, such as Columbus’ North Market complex. Prior to the bill’s passage, beer and liquor consumption were not permitted in market districts.

Michelle Minton, a consumer policy fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, says the new law makes common-sense changes to the state’s alcohol laws by treating beer no differently than other alcoholic beverages.

‘Antiquated and Arbitrary Restriction’

“Speaking only about the ABV cap, it is about time Ohio lifted this antiquated and arbitrary restriction,” Minton said. “Putting a cap on the level of alcohol in beer makes no sense when people are legally allowed to purchase wine and, particularly, spirits, which have many times more the level of alcohol by volume.”

Minton says she has some concerns about the bill’s labeling requirements.

“One concern is the law’s new requirement that brewers label beers over 12 percent ABV as ‘high alcohol beer’ may cause some difficulty for out-of-state brewers, who will need to make a label specifically for the Ohio market and get it approved by the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau,” Minton said.

More Options for Brewers, Consumers

Minton says she’s happy brewers have the option to make more-potent beverages, despite her concerns about the compliance costs.

“The added cost may prompt many to forgo making high-alcohol beer, but at least the option now exists,” Minton said.

Encouraging Growing Markets

Greg Lawson, a senior policy analyst at the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, says the new law is great for Ohio consumers.

“We already have somewhat of a vibrant micro-brewing market throughout the state,” Lawson said. “This will improve that. It will increase opportunity for the already existing market.”

‘People Are Really Excited’

Lawson, who describes himself as a “beer snob,” says he’s raising his glass to the bill’s passage.

“These are high-end beers, and most people really like this,” Lawson said. “It’s turned into an art form, and people are really excited. It’s a growing market. All of the growth in the beer market is in the craft-brewing field.”

Lawson says he hopes the new law will inspire other states to remove alcohol regulations.

“If this opens the door to other states doing that and lifting these kind of artificial restraints, that’s a good thing,” Lawson said.

Andrea Dillon ([email protected]) writes from Holly Springs, North Carolina.