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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Passage of Ohio HB 351 Would Raise the Spirits of Ohio's Craft Distilleries

OBC has been following Am. HB 351 as it has been approved by Ohio's House of Representatives and into Committee in Ohio's Senate.  A quick refresher about the highlights of Am. HB 351, it seeks to:

  1. Increase the capacity of spirits a craft distillery (A-3a permit) is permitted to produce annually from 10,000 to 100,000 gallons, and
  2. Give craft distilleries the ability to obtain an A-1-A permit and operate a full bar and serve food in the distillery.

On May 17, 2106, the Senate's Committee on Agriculture held a 2nd hearing on Am. HB 351. and heard proponent testimony from representatives from Watershed Distillery, Middle West Spirits, Flat Rock Spirits, Tom's Foolery Distillery, Belle of Dayton, Indian Creek Distillery and Steven Mauer, Former Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

According to Ryan Lang, co-founder of Middle West Spirits and President of the Ohio Distillers Guild,

Photo by BradenGunem/iStock / Getty Images
Both adjustments to our A-3a permit will immediately impact the ability of Ohio distilleries to grow, creating more jobs, increasing agri-tourism and ag investments in Ohio as the majority of grain we purchase is grown in our Ohio fields.  Not to mention most distilleries will invest more in infrastructure as well as the amount of money spent on local sales distribution, sales outlets and eventually our restaurant customers and patrons.

Currently, Ohio's craft breweries enjoy more opportunity than Ohio's craft distilleries, and recently were brought in line with most of the country via elimination of the ABV cap.  Mike and Murphy LaSelle, co-owners of Belle of Dayton, simply want craft distillers to have the opportunities as their brethren craft brewers.

House Bill 351, Liquor permit A-3a increase liquor distillation limit would put micro/craft distilleries on an equal playing field with craft breweries and winery's in Ohio.  By limiting an A-3a permit holder to distill less than ten thousand gallons of spirituous liquor per year is an archaic law that inhibits the growth of Ohio Craft Spirits Industry and the distribution of our spirits.  By supporting House Bill 351 you are supporting and investing in the future of Ohio, its job growth, and the increased tax dollars that will follow.  As with many breweries throughout our great state experiencing exponential job growth, production and distribution, distilleries too should have the ability and opportunity to grow and expand with these logical legislative updates to the craft spirits industry.

Complete copies of the proponent testimony heard on May 17 can be found here.  According to one of HB 351's primary sponsors, State Rep. Rick Perales, in sponsor testimony from May 10,

Ohio laws haven't kept up with the emerging spirits market.  As little as 10 years ago there were 1 or 2 craft distilleries statewide, and now there are 34.  The increasing demand for craft spirits is a result of the movement to seek locally-sourced ingredients and to support locally-owned small businesses.  House Bill 351 will aid in allowing these small businesses to thrive and create jobs in their regions.  In addition to taking great pride in manufacturing an Ohio product with local ingredients, craft distilleries are a magnet for tourism.  People love taking tours and learning about the various mixtures, barrel and aging process.  Therefore, this bill will also positively affect both the Agriculture and Tourism industries in Ohio.

Hopefully, HB 351 makes its way out of Committee and to the Senate floor before this year's session ends.  Passage will certainly raise the spirits of Ohio's craft distilleries.

Contact OBC with any questions.