February 9, 2023

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Legalities of Home Brewing Beer in the United States

Have you considered learning to brew your own beer at home but it just seems to be too complicated? Well, brewing beer is not a complicated process and does not take a great deal of specialized equipment. If any of you have taken a brewery tour, you might not agree with that but remember that what you saw was built to brew beer in the millions of gallons. At a more reasonable level, home brewing, the process is pretty much the same but the equipment needed is not.

Home brewing has been legal in the United States since 1979 when President Carter signed into law a measure repealing the last Federal restrictions on the home brewing of small amounts of beer. These restrictions had been in place since Prohibition and were not lifted along with the restrictions on home wine-making due to a clerical error omitting the words “and/or beer” from the original bill! You just have to love those government bureaucrats.

Today, the fifty individual states are free to restrict, or even prohibit, the brewing of beer, mead, hard cider, wine and assorted other alcoholic beverages at home. One single example of this is a section of the Alabama code that states “in all counties of the state it shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation o have in his or its possession any still or apparatus to be used for the manufacture of any alcoholic beverage of any kind or any alcoholic beverage of any kind illegally manufactured or transported with in the state or imported into the state from any other place without authority of the alcoholic control board of the state…”. While that is very restrictive, as many Alabamans know, there are several home brew stores operating within the state so the appetite for enforcement seems to be pretty low.

Most other states permit beer brewing at home and allow 100 gallons of beer per person (over the age of 21) per household up to a maximum of 200 gallons per year. Now I am sure you will agree that 200 gallons is a lot of beer! Lets put that number in a way we can more easily understand. 200 gallons of beer is the rough equivalent of 355 six packs or 177 twelve packs. If you are spending your hard earned cash on this much beer, you are definitely a candidate for home brewing! Just keep in mind that the government does not allow you to sell any of your home brewed beer because they tax alcohol and your sales would eat into their revenue. So keep it legal and make it for your own consumption.

Just like everything else individuals home brew beer for a variety of reasons. Obviously, if you are a real fan of beer, brewing beer yourself can save a whole lot of money (see the paragraph just above). Home brewing also gives you, as the brew master, the ability to change recipes to suit your own taste. If you are not able to find a beer on the commercial market that suits your taste, brew your own! Similarly if you love beer and are also conscious of the number of calories, you may want to brew a very low-ethanol beer that still has taste. Home brewing is a low cost satisfying hobby that offers competitions where you can test your favorite recipe against other home beer brewers. You may sometimes hear this referred to as “Craft Brewing”.