States Are Popping the Cap on ‘High Alcohol Beer’: Ohio Lawmakers Authorize Brewers to Increase Alcohol by Volume

States Are Popping the Cap on ‘High Alcohol Beer’: Ohio Lawmakers Authorize Brewers to Increase Alcohol by Volume
September 1, 2016

Summary
Several state lawmakers have increased the alcohol by volume (ABV) caps on beer production in recent years, and now, craft brewers in Ohio will also have the opportunity to brew “high alcohol beer.”  With House Bill 37, which was signed into law on May 31, 2016 and went into effect Wednesday, August 31, 2016, the legislature lifted the 12 percent ABV limit on beer brewed in Ohio.  While the amended code removes restrictions on alcohol content, it does require that any beer that has an ABV content higher than 12 percent be labeled “High Alcohol Beer” and include the percentage of alcohol by volume on the labeling. 

Ohio has about 190 craft breweries, and is the latest state to ‘pop the cap’ and remove limitations on the ABV of beer.  Some states, such as Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey, also have no cap on a beer’s ABV, whereas other states, including North Carolina (where the cap has recently been raised to 15 percent), as well as Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi, have increased their caps in recent years.  

While craft brews typically average 5 to 7 percent ABV, brewers are using this newfound freedom to create high-octane beers for an increasingly savvy consumer demographic that tends to drink higher-alcohol beers for their increased flavor and complexity.  By authorizing high-alcohol beer in a given state, that state’s craft brewers are able to expand product offerings to compete with breweries in neighboring states that already market high-alcohol beer.  

In addition to being a boon to brewers, the cap removal also makes good business sense for the state: it is widely reported that BrewDog USA, a Scotland-based brewery known for high-ABV brews, is investing more than $30 million to build a U.S. brewery and restaurant in Canal Winchester outside Columbus, Ohio.

With Ohio as the latest example, it is evident that the ‘pop the cap’ movement is gaining ground with lawmakers around the country, and that such laws will empower brewers to experiment with new and exciting products to distinguish themselves in an increasingly competitive marketplace. For more information on what this development means for your business, please contact the authors or the attorney at the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

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