Ohio distillers are rejoicing as House Bill 351 has passed one more hurdle on the way to becoming law. The pending legislation requires the signature of Governor John Kasich before it officially takes effect.
Ohio HB 351 will allow Ohio craft distilleries to increase their manufacturing limits from 10,000 gallons to 100,000 gallons annually, a 900% increase. It also allows distilleries to obtain a license that permits them to serve their distilled liquor, and other alcoholic beverages, by the glass in their facilities, and to serve food there as well. “This bill rolls back restrictive regulation, allowing micro-distilleries to thrive in Ohio’s economy by unleashing their production and enabling them to serve their customers in exciting new ways,” said State Rep. Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek, co-sponsor of the bill.
The Result of Years of Lobbying
Missy Duer, co-founder and Mistress of Distillation & Memory Merchant at Indian Creek Distillery said, “You probably could not come closer to a truer “game changing” opportunity for Ohio artisan distilleries. We could not be happier with the “end product” of several years’ worth of lobbying, sharing testimonies and creating needs awareness within the State House of Representatives and Ohio Senate. For us, producers of early American craft whiskies distilled in the oldest working potstills in America (1820), the opportunity to have a tavern, thus allowing folks from far and wide to come and “eat, drink and be merry” and to enjoy a relaxing cocktail (made from our whiskies, on our farm, in our stills), will allow us to promote The Staley Mill Farm and Indian Creek Distillery as a “not your ordinary” destination. This bill puts craft distilleries on parity with the many breweries and wineries throughout the state who already boast their restaurants and brew pubs. Now, thankfully, it’s our turn…”
The Girls – Great Great Great Grandfather Elias’ Potstills
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Duer sees, “this bill as a start that will take us back to the beginning before Prohibition when laws were few and far between. And as for Indian Creek Distillery, we will continue to distill my family’s old rye whiskey recipe in my great-great- great grandfather Elias’ potstills (fondly called “the girls”) amid this old-fashioned gallimaufry of letters, clippings, postcards, remnants and vintage photographs…..sharing 200 years of one farm, one family’s distillery and whiskey as ‘smooth as a sip of history’©.”
Better Customer Experience – Sales by the Glass
Ryan Lang, co-founder of Middle West Spirits and President of the Ohio Distillers Guild says, “At first glance, the changes proposed to our A3-a Craft Distillery License seem small. Those being a change in our production limit and affording A-3a license holders to purchase an additional A1-a (liquor) license. However, the depth of the impact to both our distilling community as well as partners cannot be understated.
The only product experience Ohio distilleries can give today is a pour of 4 x ¼ ounce samples of spirits to a single customer per day. No ice, water, or mixers can be used.
The second change in HB 351 is specifically made to afford our A3-a permit holders the ability to improve their on premise experiences with consumers by allowing consumption by the glass. This represents the ultimate in parity by allowing Ohio distilleries to serve just as Ohio wineries and Ohio Breweries have done for decades.”
Distillery is the Best Sales Outlet for Craft Spirits
Greg Lehman, Co-Founder of Watershed Distillery said that under the current law, they were close to exceeding the 10,000 proof gallon limits at their distillery. If they were to go over that limit they would no longer be able to sell spirits from their distillery. Lehman said, “Ever since we obtained the A-3a permit in late 2012, Watershed’s A- 3a shop has been our highest volume retail location in the state.
This calendar year, Watershed Distillery will exceed the 10,000 proof gallon limit currently enforced by A-3a regulations and would lose the ability to sell bottles on-site. We’ve experienced doing business without an A-3a permit in the past, and it’s not something we are looking forward to doing again. Prior to 2012, we weren’t able to sell bottles from our shop due to previously overturned A-3a legislation. This was a huge disconnect for us. When guests would come on tour, hear our story, taste our spirits and then ask to buy a bottle, we’d have to direct them to the nearest state liquor store and send them home with a t-shirt or a pint glass. Ever since we obtained the A-3a permit in late 2012, Watershed’s A- 3a shop has been our highest volume retail location in the state.
The new possibility of being able to add a food and bar to our operation is impactful as it gives us a better platform to share our brand with tour guests. Not only will this allow them to enjoy our spirits the way spirits are typically enjoyed (in cocktails), it will also allow us to serve food with our spirits. In addition to creating a more enjoyable atmosphere for guests, serving food promotes safer, more responsible drinking as food helps slow the absorption of the alcohol into the circulatory system.”