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- Garrison Hilliard
April 4, 2012, 2:49 am
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An Ohio micro-distillery has become the first such business in the
state to benefit from a new law allowing sales of samples in the
businesses’ tasting rooms.
Columbus-based Watershed Distillery received the new liquor permit
created by House Bill 243 last week, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
The law allows micro-distilleries to operate similarly to wineries.
“This is huge for us,” said Watershed co-owner Greg Lehman. “We
haven’t really been able to promote tours the way we could.”
Under the previous law, Lehman’s business would have to send tour
groups to a liquor store a half-mile away if they wanted to buy a
bottle of gin or vodka, or even taste some.
“Now, people will be able to taste our product and see if they like
it,” said Dave Rigo, Watershed co-owner.
Mt. Carmel Brewing Company on the east side of Cincinnati is taking
advantage of the new law, said Kathleen Dewey, who owns the
microbrewery with her husband Mike. They will offer tastings to go
along with tours of the brewery, or so people can try before they buy.
“It is is definitely a big deal for us,” she said. “People will be
able to try new beers. If they’ve heard our stout is good, but don’t
want to commit to buying a six-pack, they can try a 3-ounce pour.”
She said they had considered adding tastings before the new law
passed, but didn’t think they could sell enough tastes to justify the
The new law also should help other types of Ohio businesses, said
David Goodman, director of the Ohio Department of Commerce. Goodman
said craft distilleries represent a secondary market for Ohio farmers
because many of the micro-distilleries which already have applied for
the permit plan to use locally grown crops.
Distillers have responded enthusiastically to the legislation, said
Bruce Stevenson, superintendent of the Division of Liquor Control.
A dozen distillers have applied for the new license, and more are
expected, he said.
“Our phones haven’t stopped ringing from people wanting to know how to
properly go about getting a license,” Stevenson said.
Microbreweries also benefit under the new law, said Eric Bean, brew
master at Columbus Brewing Co. and president of the Ohio Craft Brewers
Microbreweries previously could urge the public to visit, but would
have to tell visitors that they couldn’t have any beer, Bean said.
“This allows us to have tours and tastings,” he said. “This whole
thing is fantastic.”
The businesses understand that the new law will help an already
rapidly growing sector become even more successful, Stevenson said.
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