Did Ohio Really Eliminate the ABV Cap on Beer Made Here?
Almost one year ago, we proclaimed "May 18, 2016 may go down as one of the greatest days in Ohio craft beer history." On that day, the Ohio House passed Sub. HB 37 with a vote of 79-7 which eliminated the ABV (alcohol by volume) cap on on beer brewed and sold in Ohio. The bill subsequently became law when signed by the Governor on March 31, 2017, which went into effect on August 31, 2016.
In reliance on the new law, a handful of Ohio craft breweries began to produce beer with ABV's north of the previous 12% limit. However, the passage of Sub. HB 37 did not eliminate other Ohio laws that restrict the ABV on beer made here.
In addition to permits from the TTB and State of Ohio necessary to brew beer, Ohio's craft breweries are also required to obtain the required building permits. According to Section 306 of Ohio's Building Code, a building used and occupied for a manufacturing purpose requires a "Factor Group F" Use classification. Ohio designates F-Use classifications into two groups: Moderate-Hazard Occupancy (F-1) and Low-Hazard Occupancy (F-2).
As it relates to breweries, whether the brewing of beer is low-hazard or high-hazard is tied directly to a beer's ABV. Specifically, beverages with an ABV of 16% or lower are considered low-hazard and anything above 16% high-hazard. Therefore, while there is no limit on the ABV of beer brewed in Ohio, a brewery's ability to produce anything north of 16% is limited by the building's Use Group classification.
According to Kenneth J. Seidl, a Registered Architect in Dayton:
The Ohio Building Code considers a F-1 Use Group as a higher hazard use group and applies more stringent standards regarding allowable height and area based upon construction type, as well as fire suppression requirements. Buildings currently classified as having a F-2 Use Group would need to be reclassified as a F-1 Use Group should the 16% be exceeded.
Bottom line: If you're looking to brew beer with an ABV higher than 16%, make sure you have the appropriate Use Group classification.
Getting your arms around and complying with all laws applicable to your brewery (and distillery) is never an easy task. Contact OBC with any questions.