Ohio Beer Counsel
Information and Commentary on the Issues Facing Ohio's Craft Beer Community, Breweries and Distilleries - Brewed by the Craft Beer Lawyers of Bruns, Connell, Vollmar & Armstrong's Brewery & Distillery Practice Group
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Ohio HB 37 "High Alcohol Beer" Label vs. TTB Label Prohibitions

On May 10, Ohio's Senate passed an amended version of HB 37 which proposes to remove the alcohol by volume (ABV) cap on beer manufactured and sold in Ohio.  Progress indeed to furthering Ohio's claim to one of the Nation's leaders in craft beer.  HB 37 also proposes changes to labels on beer containing greater than 12% ABV.  Several craft beer aficionados have questioned what affect Ohio's proposed label requirement will have on the ability to have such a label approved by the TTB.

For starters, HB 37 seeks to amend R.C. 4301.03(E) as follows:

[The liquor control commission may adopt and promulgate, repeal, rescind and amend] Rules requiring the label on every package, bottle and container to state all of the following as applicable:
  1. The ingredients in the contents;
  2. Except for beer, the terms of weight, volume or proof spirits;
  3. Except for spirituous liquor, whether the product is beer, wine, alcohol, or any intoxicating liquor;
  4. Regarding beer that contains more than twelve per cent of alcohol by volume, the percentage of alcohol by volume and that the beer is a "high alcohol beer."

Label approvals are handled by the TTB and 27 CFR 7.29 sets forth a multitude of prohibited statements on beer labels.  Relevant to HB 37's proposed inclusion of "high alcohol beer," 27 CFR 7.29(f) addresses the use of words 'strong,' 'full strength,' and similar words on labels.  These statements are prohibited "unless required by State law."  Therefore, it appears HB 37's label requirement is not prohibited by Federal regulations.  Notwithstanding, it may affect whether out of State brewers sell "high alcohol beer" in Ohio if they are required to pay for, and have approved, an Ohio-specific label.

It is unknown whether this specific language will also be approved by Ohio's House, but we will keep an eye on this legislation (and others) and provide updates as they are available.

Contact OBC with any questions.