Shoppers at Ohio farmers markets may soon be able to pick up a six pack of craft beer along with their produce. State Representatives Steve Hambley (R-Brunswick) and Martin J. Sweeney (D-Cleveland) introduced the Ohio Proud Craft Beer Act, a bill that would not only allow craft breweries to serve samples and sell beer at farmers markets, but would also allow craft beer brewed with Ohio-grown ingredients to carry the “Ohio Proud” certification.
The Ohio Proud Craft Beer Act has wide bipartisan support in the House with 25 co-sponsors and is backed by the Ohio Farm Bureau, the Ohio Hop Growers Guild, the Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association and the Ohio Craft Brewers Association. With the rising consumer demand for locally sourced food and drink, incorporating craft beer into farmers markets and the Ohio Proud program reinforces the brewing industry’s reliance on a strong local agriculture economy.
“The goal of the Ohio Proud Craft Beer Act is to support every industry that plays a part in brewing craft beer,” said Hambley. “This legislation not only supports Ohio barley growers, hop and fruit farmers, maltsters and craft brewers, but also consumers who want to know that what they are drinking was grown right here in the Buckeye State.”
The 131st General Assembly passed similar legislation in 2016 to allow Ohio wineries to sell at farmers markets. The Ohio Proud Craft Beer Act would give small breweries the same opportunity to reach customers who are actively seeking out locally-made products that use Ohio-grown ingredients.
“This bill is all about Ohio,” said Sweeney. “There are great things happening with the craft beer scene in our state. Now Ohioans can be Ohio proud and the country can see what Ohio is all about.”
The “Ohio Proud” certification currently applies to products made with 50 percent or more Ohio ingredients: the Ohio Department of Agriculture will define the criteria for craft beer once the bill passes. At first, the program would likely only certify a handful of beers as Ohio’s hops and barley farm yields are still relatively small. However, the eventual goal is to help farms grow and prosper by raising customer awareness and demand for beers made with Ohio-grown ingredients.
Prior to the introduction of the Ohio Proud Craft Beer Act, Hambley, Sweeney and other state representatives toured the state to visit craft breweries, malt houses and farms to explain the benefits of the bill. In Cleveland, the legislators visited Butcher and The Brewer and Market Garden Breweries, Haus Malts, West Branch Malts (Brunswick), and Barn Talk Hops (Sharon Township). In the Columbus area, the destinations were Rustic Brew Farm and Land Grant Brewery. In Cincinnati and Dayton, the group visited Rhinegeist Brewery, Warped Wing Brewery, and Little Miami Farms.
Ohio is fourth in the nation in craft beer production and 11th in craft beer consumption, with a statewide economic impact of $2.67 billion in 2016. Additionally, since 2012, the number of craft breweries operating in Ohio has risen from 63 to over 260 today, with close to 100 new breweries currently in planning. This accounts for more than 15,000 jobs supported by the industry.
Photo courtesy Ohio Craft Brewers Association: Ohio House Representatives tour Land-Grant Brewing Company in Columbus.