new law opens the door to more craft distilleries

One of the most widely read Fresh Water features was a story on Ohio's burgeoning craft distillery trend.
"Going hand-in-hand with the local foods movement -- and following on the heels of the craft beer renaissance -- the artisan distilling trend seemed destined to happen," wrote Yours Truly. "Blessed with abundant crops, fresh water and a food-savvy populace evermore focused on quality, Ohio was ripe for the picking."
Highlighted in the story are Ohio City's Market Garden Brewery, Geauga County-based Tom's Foolery, Cincinnati's Woodstone Creek, and Columbus' Middle West Spirits and Watershed Distillery.
But it wasn't all good news: "For the most part, Ohio is not open for business when it comes to distilling," said Don Outterson, owner of Woodstone Creek. "Until the laws are changed I actually try and discourage people from entering the market."
As it stood at the time of that story's publication, only one permit was allowed in each of Cuyahoga, Franklin and Hamilton counties. What's more, those precious few permit holders could distill but not sell or offer tastes of their wares on-site, a tactic that makes wineries profitable. The outcome of the legislation was that it encouraged would-be distillers to set up shop in more progressive states.
That's why the recent passage of House Bill 243 was received as such a breath of fresh air. Signed into law by Gov. John Kasich, the bill eliminates the restrictions on the number of A-3a liquor permits while enabling new and existing permit holders to sell their products directly to consumers for consumption off premises.
"Great news, and a historic moment," announced Market Garden's Sam McNulty. "Let the craft distilling movement roll across our state!"
Since the change, interest in and demand for these new permits has increased significantly.
"Our phones haven't stopped ringing from people wanting to know how to properly go about getting a license," Bruce Stevenson, superintendent of the Division of Liquor Control told the Columbus Dispatch.
Like other startups, these distilleries not only employ workers and pay taxes; they purchase large amounts of local agricultural products to craft their products. Additionally, they serve to attract visitors to the area, which in turn spurs more regional income.
We'll drink to that.

Photos Bob Perkoski *except where noted
- Images 1 & 2: Middle West Spirits
- Image 3: Tom Herbruck of Tom's Foolery - Photo Doug Trattner*
- Image 4: Don Otterson of Woodstone Creek - Photo Scott Bressler*
- Images 5 & 6: Watershed Distillery 

Read more articles by Douglas Trattner.

Douglas Trattner is a fulltime freelance writer, editor and author. In addition to acting as Managing Editor of Fresh Water, he is the Dining Editor of Cleveland Scene, author of “Moon Handbooks: Cleveland,” and co-author with Michael Symon on two New York Times best-selling cookbooks. His work has appeared in Food Network magazine, Miami Herald, Globe and Mail, Wine & Spirits, Cleveland Magazine and others. He lives in Cleveland Hts. with his wife, two dogs, five chickens and 20,000 honeybees.
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