If you want to grow or buy some grapes and open up a winery in Ohio the state will sell you a license for $76. That same license will let you to open a tasting room and offer sample of your products for sale and consumption. This is pretty affordable and has laid the ground work for Ohio’s vintners to create a growing business from wine tourist. It is estimated that Ohio’s wineries and wine festivals attract over 2 million visitors a year. I know several local couples who often take brief vacations structured around visiting wineries in a particular area.
For Ohio’s brewers of craft beers life has been more difficult. A brewing license in Ohio runs $3,906 and doesn’t allow on site sampling or sales. That requires a second license costing an extra $3,906. In late 2011 the Ohio Legislature passed and the governor signed a law doing away with the second license fee.
It is hoped that making it more affordable to open tasting rooms will do for the state’s small brewers what it has done for the wine industry.
Another part of the new law will expand the number of micro-distilleries permitted in Ohio. Previously Ohio only licensed three micro-distillers to operate and those were mainly located in the Northern part of the state. A micro-distiller is defined as one making less than 10,000 gallons of distilled spirits annually.
While I’m not a fan of distilled spirits and most wines I do enjoy the occasional pint of lager, ale or stout and I’ve never been in a micro-brewery I didn’t enjoy. Most brew-pubs offer a sampler assortment of what they have on tap. The customer receives several 2 or 3 ounce glasses along with a brief written description of each offering. It’s a great and tasty way to learn more about brews and what various ingredients do to the flavor. Years ago we would structure our vacation route to include the largest number of Cracker Barrel restaurants. Later it became BBQ joints. Do I see the Great American Beer Route in my future? Could be!