Ohio’s brewers set to roll out tasting rooms
Monday January 9, 2012 6:59 AM
Chris Verich, owner of Ohio Brewing Co. in Akron, looks forward to the day when he can open a tasting room without having to pay for a second permit.
AKRON — Ohio craft brewers hope a new state law allowing production breweries to open tasting rooms and sell their beer by the glass without buying a second costly permit will help boost beer tourism by bringing breweries more in line with winery tasting rooms.
Breweries have been charged $3,906 annually for that second permit in addition to paying the same amount for their manufacturing license. The cost of the second permit had deterred many small-production breweries from opening to the public.
Ohio wineries pay $76 for their annual license and don’t have to pay for a second permit for tasting rooms, says the Ohio Department of Commerce, which oversees the Division of Liquor Control.
Wineries have flourished by marketing themselves as tourist destinations, and some have created “wine trails,” leading visitors from winery to winery to sample products.
Like wineries, microbreweries will now be able to “showcase their products in a relaxed setting,” said Chris Verich, who owns and manages brewing operations at Ohio Brewing Co. in Akron and plans to open a tasting room.
He said the bill signed in late December by Gov. John Kasich marked “a great day for Ohio microbreweries and the Ohio craft-brewing industry.”
The measure was scheduled to take effect in 90 days.
The president of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association said the change in the law is “long overdue.” John Najeway, who’s also co-owner of Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. in Akron, said his business has paid for a second permit for a couple of years to have a tasting room.
Other breweries looking to open tasting rooms include Black Box Brewing and Indigo Imp Brewery in northeastern Ohio, Mount Carmel Brewing and Listermann Brewing in southwestern Ohio and Neil House Brewery on the Far East Side.
“The wheels have always been rolling when it comes to the idea of building a tasting room, but we couldn’t justify the cost of the license,” Mount Carmel assistant brewer Patrick Clark said in an email.
The Mount Carmel brewery in suburban Cincinnati has provided in-depth explanations of the brewing process to people touring the facility.
“But let’s be honest — tasting is the most important part of the process,” Clark said.
State Rep. Casey Kozlowski, R-Pierpoint, who co-sponsored the bill, said he sees plenty of potential for economic development with the growing craft-beer industry, especially given the popularity of wine tourism.
The state-run Ohio Grape Industries Committee estimates Ohio wineries and festivals attract more than 2 million visitors annually.
The brewery issue was an amendment to a bill that focused mainly on micro-distilleries. Under the new law, the state also will allow the opening of more micro-distilleries, or businesses producing less than 10,000 gallons a year.
Previously, only three microdistillery licenses were available, and they were restricted to Cuyahoga, Franklin and Hamilton counties.
The state wants artisan distillers and brewers to have the opportunity to create and grow their businesses, which tend to use and rely on local products, said Lyn Tolan, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Commerce.