Listermann/Triple Digit seizes chance to start brewing high-alcohol beer

The Ohio House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill Wednesday removing caps on the amount of alcohol in beers.

The very next day, Thursday, Listermann/Triple Digit Brewing Co. began brewing a “big” beer called Huge Beer 37 that is expected to be 15 percent ABV.

Under the former laws governing beer production in Ohio, the amount of alcohol a beer could contain was capped at 12 percent. House Bill 37 lifted that restriction and will become law once Gov. John Kasich signs it sometime in the next 30 days.

“It takes a lot of grain and a lot of time, so we are in the perfect timeframe to start brewing,” said Jason Brewer, marketing director for Listermann/Triple Digit. “We have 90 to 120 days, depending on the governor’s signature.

“We’re known as the Cincinnati brewery who sells big beers. Our customers have been clamoring for this,” Brewer said.

The style of the beer is still being determined, depending on how the process goes. It is unlikely to be barrel-aged, but with the alcohol cap lifted, Brewer expects to be brewing a lot of barrel-aged beers in the future.

He said the target ABV for Huge Beer 37 is around 15 percent.

“It’s really whatever it will come to, but we’re aiming for 15 percent,” he said. “But yeast is a living organism, so it could be more, it could be less, but it will definitely be more than 12 percent.”

The law will benefit breweries throughout Ohio. The only state adjacent to Ohio that also has a cap on alcohol content in beer is West Virginia. This means out-of-state breweries will be able to sell big beers in Ohio once the law is signed. Many craft beer enthusiasts currently cross state lines to get beers that aren’t available in Ohio.

“It’s all well and good that we get to make fun beers, but there’s a bigger benefit. This is a great revenue stream that’s going to help Ohio,” Brewer said. “Whether the beer is brewed in Ohio or not, when it’s sold in Ohio, it’s taxed in Ohio, and that’s really going to help with funding schools, building roads and supporting veterans.”

However, the new law doesn’t come without another restriction. Higher ABV beers will have to be specifically labeled as such, which means that an out-of-state brewery or distributor might have to make a new label for beers being sent to Ohio.

The flip side is, multiple versions of those beers won’t be necessary. Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout, released last month, is one example of a beer that had different versions released in Kentucky and Ohio. The nationwide/Kentucky version was 12.4 percent ABV, while a special version was made for Ohio that was 11.9 percent.

“This releases us from a hobble,” said Dan Listermann, owner of Listermann/Triple Digit. “We’ve bumped up against that limit a lot.

“It’s an artificial limit – it’s silly,” Listermann said. “This gives us as brewers an area to explore in the higher alcohol limits. When the beer gets higher in alcohol, you get some things going that you don’t at lower levels. Unlike wine and spirits, beer doesn’t taste hot as the alcohol content goes up.”

Listermann, who started his business in 1995 as a home-brewing supply store before starting to brew and sell beer in 2008, believes this is a positive measure for local craft breweries.

“It puts us on equal footing with the states around us,” he said.

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