By Associated Press - Saturday, January 18, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Legislation in the Ohio House would allow Ohio beers to hike up their alcohol content.

The Columbus Dispatch reports ( ) that House Bill 391 would increase the maximum percentage from 12 to 21 percent for beers produced and sold in the state. Democratic Rep. Dan Ramos of Lorain has been promoting the measure, saying Ohio brewers need to be able to use the higher alcohol content to compete with beer in other states. The higher-alcohol beer couldn’t have caffeine or other stimulants in it.

“It’s about leveling the playing fields with other states,” said Ramos, who has bipartisan support from 20 co-sponsors for his latest effort to allowing punching up Ohio beers. “A lot of breweries in Ohio find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.”

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says he hopes legislators will look at how raising the alcohol percentage could impact drunk driving.

“I would like to see what other states have done and what their experience has been,” DeWine said.

Marcie Seidel, executive director of the Drug Free Action Alliance, thinks the proposed change is a bad idea. She said people could wind up imbibing more alcohol than they realize, “thinking they are only drinking one drink when really it’s the equivalent of two or three (current) beers.”

Ohio’s craft brewing business is growing, becoming among the largest in the nation.

Paul Gatza, director of the National Brewers Association, said beer sold with 12 percent alcohol or higher makes up some 2 percent of the craft-beer market, but is found in some of the finest beers made. He said such beers are usually consumed a little at a time.

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