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Seven Weird and Misguided Ohio Beer Laws

7_weird_and_misguided_ohio_beer_lawsOhio’s beer laws certainly aren’t perfect and some of them will leave you scratching your head. Plus we are doing much better than some other states, *cough cough* Utah, the south, and Indiana. Others should make you want to storm your local state representative’s office — but don’t actually do that, cops frown on that.

I’m sure they were well intentioned when first drafted but they could probably use some updating. Fortunately, we live in a democratic society and we can influence change. Read through these to see if you agree or disagree with current regulations.

7. Bad Santa

Code Section:

No advertisement shall represent, portray, or make any reference to Santa Claus.

Really? Mrs. Claus can get tipsy but not the jolly old fat man??

6. Lavish me with gifts, except glassware

Code Section:

Trays, bar caddys, bar mats, matches, crumbers, stir sticks, menu cards, paper coasters, foam scrapers, olive picks, back bar display pieces, lighters, cigar cutters, T-shirts, hats, wine bottle seals, buckets, glassware or other containers intended for the serving of alcohol beverages, and other similar items, which bear a brand name or logo for any type of alcoholic beverage, may be furnished by the manufacturer or supplier free of charge to any retail permit holder. The cost of each item shall not exceed twenty-five dollars per item and at no cost to the wholesale permit holder. However, no manufacturer or supplier shall furnish to an individual retail permit holder more than twenty-five dollars worth of glassware or other containers intended for the serving of alcohol beverages at one time, and shall not furnish glassware to an individual retail permit holder more than twice per year.

A brewery or distributor can give their customers an unlimited number of surfing dog neon signs and olive toothpicks but a nice snifter with a logo is limited to $25 worth up to two times per year. I’m guessing enforcement of this provision may be lax given the stacks of Bud, Miller, Coors shaker pints at every sports bar in town. Getting free shaker pints is probably why a lot of bars and restaurants still subject us to this barbaric glass. Related, I’ve heard rumors that some bars demand free glassware in order to carry a beer which is clearly a violation of “pay to play” laws if the brewery or distributor acquiesces.

5. Old enough to fight, old enough to drink beer!

Code Section: US Troops Super Bowl

If the United States congress repeals the mandate established by the “Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982” relating to a national uniform drinking age of twenty-one or if a court of competent jurisdiction declares the mandate to be unconstitutional or otherwise invalid, then upon the certification by the secretary of state that this mandate has been repealed or invalidated, the following shall apply: (B) No person under the age of twenty-one years shall purchase intoxicating liquor, nor shall a person under the age of nineteen years purchase beer.

It would seem this law was begrudgingly amended after federal legislation changed the national drinking age to 21. If we ever convince Congress to take a European view towards beer then 19 year olds won’t have to go through a variety of clandestine activities to binge drink. Or they could always just homebrew…

4. Limited happiness hour

Code Section:

No liquor permit holder, and no agent or employee of a liquor permit holder shall:
(1) Offer to sell, furnish, or deliver to any person or group of persons:
(a) Two or more servings of an alcoholic beverage upon the placing of an order for an individual serving of an alcoholic beverage;
(b) An unlimited number of servings of alcoholic beverages during any set period of time for a fixed price;
(c) Any alcoholic beverage after nine p.m. at a price less than the regularly-charged price, as established by the schedule of prices required in paragraph (B) of this rule.
(2) Encourage or allow any game or contest that involves the drinking of alcoholic beverages or the awarding of alcoholic beverages as a prize.
(3) Increase the volume of alcoholic beverages contained in a serving without increasing proportionately the price charged for such serving.

Okay, there is a lot going on here. You can’t do any New Orleans-style three-for-one happy hours where you order a single beer and they hand you an armful of bottles. Beer fests have to use a ticket system because there has to be a limit on the number of servings. If you work second or third shift then you will never see a happy hour since they are required to stop by 9PM. Bros are upset that they their beer pong skills will never lead them to a life of professional drinking. And finally, a bar or taproom can’t charge $5 for a 16oz pour and $6 for a 20oz pour since it isn’t a proportional price increase — charge a quarter more for that 20oz draft and all is right in the cosmos.

3. Scout’s Honor, that keg will come back

Code Section:

Every permit holder buying beer shall pay, and every permit holder and out-of-state shipper selling beer shall collect, on all returnable original containers a minimum cash deposit as follows: (3) Kegs or metal containers: – ten dollars.

While setting a minimum is fine, regulating the cost of keg deposits aren’t really the business of the state that has no stake in whether that $120 keg purchased by the brewery ever makes it back to its rightful owner. Retailer A could charge a $10 deposit while Retailer B charges $30. Guess where I’m returning my keg? Homebrewers love to convert kegs to pots since the loss of a simple deposit can make the cost of a 15 gallon kettle become very attainable. Retailer C could start selling empty kegs for $50 and collect a decent profit after deposit on the back of the brewery. Remember folks, you should be obtaining these kegs legitimately or just steal them from Bud/Miller/Coors because it’s like being Robin Hood (I’m kidding – don’t steal stuff).

2. No freebies

Code Section:

No holder of a permit shall give away any beer or intoxicating liquor of any kind at any time in connection with the permit holder’s business.

Here’s another one that isn’t necessarily strongly enforced but it’s on the books. What often happens, and is permissible, is that Charity A buys beer from Brewery Z. Brewery Z then turns around and makes a donation for Charity A for the exact same amount. Breweries and retailers aren’t going to give away massive amounts of beer because it makes generating a profit really difficult. It would make it much easier to support charities and promote new beers with this out of the way. Related, “consumer product instruction” events allow you to get two free servings of beer up to 12oz each in a 24 hour period.


Code Section:

“Beer” includes all beverages brewed or fermented wholly or in part from malt products and containing one-half of one per cent or more, but not more than twelve per cent, of alcohol by volume.

This has been the bane of Ohio’s existence for some time now. Some speculate that Columbus lost their bid for Stone Brewing Company’s east coast operations because of this limit. Representative Dan Ramos continues to introduce legislation to amend this silly, antiquated, and nonsensical 12% limit without success. However, the only we to get traction to make your voice heard! Find your local representative and let them know you are a responsible adult that would like to see Ohio breweries expand their creativity and craft with a small regulatory change. It also opens up distributors to bring in a larger variety of beers that cannot be sold in state currently – thus keeping Ohio dollars in-state.

Mike Stuart

Craft beer enthusiast and hombrew dabbler. Part-time writer, sometimes funny.

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