The question: Is homebrewing illegal, or did it become legal?
Is homebrewing illegal, or did it become legal?
The practice of homebrewing, and the law, have had a fascinating connection over time, particularly in the U.S. Although homebrewing is permitted across all 50 states of the United States currently, it wasn’t always the situation. But, as with all aspects of life, nothing is simple or easy. This implies that there are crucial legal nuances concerning homebrewing that you should wrap your mind around.
Legal Limits for Homebrew
Despite the long-standing history of homebrewing and the fact that brewing beer of any kind was a crime all over the United States from 1920 until 1933, the year that Prohibition was challenged. However, even as they attempted to overturn the law, someone made a mistake in omitting specific words that made homebrewing beer legal (though certain oenophiles did remember to include the language that allowed the production of alcohol).
We are fortunate that this mistake was fixed 45 years later when President Jimmy Carter signed a law that changed the Internal Revenue Code to make homebrewing legal (but not distilling at home), at least on the federal level, but with some restrictions. One is that each adult in a family is restricted to producing 100 gallons of beer each year. This is in addition to the total limit being 200 gallons for each household. If you take it all in, this is the equivalent of approximately 2,133 twelve-ounce bottles, or roughly 355 six-packs a year.
That raises the question, what could you do with all this beer? This brings us to a second legal issue: we aren’t allowed to sell our homebrews regardless of the amount our loyal customers would like us to. The only way to overcome this is to obtain a professional brewery license and, most importantly, pay taxes on everything you sell. In the absence of this, the only legal recourse federal law gives us is to use our homebrews for “organized events, exhibits or contests such as homemaker’s contests, tastings, or the judging.” In addition, those with more initiative might consider charging an entry fee or other such thing to make an extra buck; remember that it is also not permitted under the law.
One option to think about if you’d like to make money from the recipe you created in your home kitchen is to locate what’s known as a “contract brewer,” which is an existing brewhouse that could use its excess capacity to make your beer, and then market it to the general public. The only downside is the possibility of losing a bit in craftsmanship and the timeframe for when the beer could be made.
In the Matter of Homebrewing Laws, Each State has its unique laws.
Because nothing is easy, we must consider the state we reside in to understand the legal restrictions on home-brewed beers. President Carter’s statute in 1978 allowed states the power to regulate homebrewing. However, they were deemed appropriate, and that’s why almost every state has a distinct approach to homebrewing. For example, making home brewing in Alabama and Mississippi was not legal until 2013. (though it appears that Mississippi remains home to counties and cities classified as “dry” where alcohol-based beverages are permitted). ( Here is the state-by-state alcohol production guidelines as of 2013).
One of the elements of the laws that govern homebrewing has to do with age. As per federal rules, anyone at least 18 years old is considered an adult. This allows them to create homebrewed beer. But, of course, federal law states that you must be 21 to consume your beer legally. Certain States have observed this and set the age you can make or own homebrewed brews at 21. it’s worth finding out the rules in your area.
Other laws that vary by the state also restrict Alcohol by Volume (ABV) and the alcohol-by-weight (ABW) you can use in your home-brewed beer. Also, what is considered a high gravity (or high alcohol percentage) in a beer will depend on your location. For example, it is only possible to make 10 percent ABV within Tennessee and Mississippi; however, North Carolina tops out at 15 percent. In Oklahoma, you need an official state permit to produce beer with more than 3.2 ABW.
Although it’s unlikely that there’s a chance your locality has that workforce to search beer-making kitchens for homebrewers, it’s worth learning what rules apply before you post pictures of your latest high-gravity beers through social networks.
Another exception to the rule is Connecticut, where households are restricted to making 100 gallons of beer every year. Idaho has a similar restriction, but with an additional restriction that homebrewers are allowed to only utilize “native-grown” ingredients for their formulas. In Iowa, it is recommended to check out for taking more than five gallons of beer to the competition as that’s the limit.
Do Not Send the Homebrew It In Your Mail!
If you can obtain permission to send your beer to a contest through UPS or FedEx, never do you try to deliver any of your beers to your friends by United States Mail, regardless of the state you reside in. This could lead to any number of problems.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that we’re not lawyers; therefore, it’s best to speak to someone familiar with the law in your particular state in case you’re unsure regarding any of these laws and even any new ones which could be in the books.
Here are some resources I recommend:
120 Alcoholic Drinks for Connoisseurs shows you over one hundred unique alcoholic drinks to make and show off to your friends and have a night you won’t forget.
Professional Bartender Kit is a must-have collection for anyone interested in bartending, mixology, or someone who loves to make drinks.
RUBY Decanter w/ Built-in Aerator is easily the best on the market that we recommend.
8oz Premium Flask for when you’re going out and don’t want to blow all your money on drinks.
Stainless Steel Cooling Stones for keeping your drinks cold and classy.
Bartending & Mixology Masterclass teaches you everything you need to know about mixing drinks and alcoholic beverages like a professional.