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Ohio brewing up new bill on beer

An Ohio Senate budget bill that Republican Jimmy Stewart proposed Tuesday would increase the legal limit of alcohol in beer to 18 percent from 12 percent.

The proposal comes less than a decade after the legal limit was raised 12 percent from 6 percent in 2002.

But those expecting a better buzz on the cheap should think twice: The new brews could be pricey.

“This is about exploring the nuance and flavor of a product,” said Eric Bean, brewmaster at the Columbus Brewing Company. “This is certainly not a party beer. … It’s not going to be a Friday night beverage.”

Greg Busch, a fourth-year in aeronautical and astronautical engineering, said he may use the beers as a celebratory drink but doesn’t see himself being a regular consumer.

“I would not drink that type of beer unless it was a special occasion of some sort, like a champagne type of situation,” Busch said. “I feel that the increased alcohol content would not offset that high of a price. Why drink one bottle of beer for $30 when you can buy a case of Bud Light for less than that?”

Busch said he’s not concerned with how much alcohol is in the beer he drinks.

“Increased alcohol content is not a significant factor in what I choose to drink,” Busch said. “I drink what I believe tastes good.”

Although this may be bad news to some partiers, the news is good news to microbrewers and beer-drinkers with a taste for complexity in their drinks of choice.

“The brewer, it’s a really challenging thing to make and it’s fun,” Bean said. “As a consumer, it’s really challenging to pick out all the flavors and nuances. It’s not like an IPA (India Pale Ale) where you want to have six of them.”

At first, Bean said he was concerned the proposed bill was part of the Four Loko movement. But the bill is craft beer-oriented and aims at ensuring brewers stay within the state of Ohio.

Compared to other states, Ohio’s current law puts the state on the lower end of the spectrum in terms of the maximum alcohol by volume in beer. The proposed budget bill would certainly change that, as the majority of the top most alcoholic beers in the United States have 18 percent alcohol by volume or less.

But even with the bill’s passage, Ohio’s most alcoholic beers wouldn’t come close to the level of the Boston Brewing Company’s Samuel Adams Utopias, a 27 percent ABV brew, which, according to the company’s website, has “a sweet, malty flavor that is reminiscent of a deep, rich vintage port, fine cognac or aged sherry.”

A bottle of Utopias could cost consumers as much as $150 dollars.

“I’ve had some of the Utopia. … I’m not necessarily (a) fan, but I appreciate it,” Bean said.

Bean, who has been professionally brewing for 16 years, said beers with that level of alcohol content aren’t comparable to what many consumers are used to.

“It becomes a lot more liqueur-like,” Bean said. “At 18 percent, you’re talking about having three or four ounces … you’re talking more like a brandy and port-type drink.”

Attempts to reach Stewart were unsuccessful.


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