Alabama Alcohol Beverage Control pays homebrewer a visit
In Alabama, the state government was considering a bill to raise the legal alcohol limit in beer from 6% ABV (alcohol by volume) to 13.9% ABV. You read that right, it is illegal to purchase or distribute beer higher than 6% ABV. This eliminates most craft beers. The bill to raise the ABV limit is in the Alabama state senate, but is currently stalled. Southern Baptists and Anheuser Busch in Alabama are lobbying to block the effort (now there are strange bedfellows). There are no bills for consideration to allow homebrewing. Homebrewing is illegal in Alabama, and comes with a $2000 USD fine and up to a year in jail.
Too much publicity for AL homebrewer
Scott Oberman, a homebrewer, was contacted by L.A. Times reporter Stephanie Simon about homebrewing in Alabama. He thought this article could give good exposure to the homebrewing cause, and help raise awareness. The article, complete with pictures and full names, detailed homebrewing in Alabama. The article spread across the internet and was seen around the world. Score one for the homebrewers? Not so fast.
The article also caught the attention of the Alabama Alcohol Beverage Control board (ABC). Guess who paid Scott Oberman a visit?
It seems that the ABC wants to give Oberman a warning. The ABC agent told Oberman that he was sent by the Montgomery, Alabama office to make sure Oberman was “clear on the homebrewing laws”. They had information they wanted to share with him, and he needed to sign for it.
Breakin’ the law
Make no mistake, Oberman was breaking the law. He admitted that he was homebrewing in Alabama and he was distributing the beer to friends. His beer was even stronger than 6% ABV. It was a dumb move on his part; he was almost begging Alabama to do something. You might call this civil disobedience, but we all know how Alabama deals with civil disobedience.
Now Scott Oberman fears for his life. He stands to lose joint custody of his daughter, and his security clearance job. “At this point, I am very close to the decision to completely give up the best hobby in the world until such time that it is no longer illegal here in AL. This is a decision that I have not taken lightly, but my family has to come first.” says Oberman in a Free the Hops forum . If Alabama wanted to, the state could quickly ruin his life to make an example of him – all because he makes his own beer. He doesn’t want to test the case in court. That was never his intention. He is now facing the reality that he must give up the hobby he loves. Can you believe this is happening in America?
Legal in other states
Making beer is legal in most other states. If he lived in Colorado, no one would even know his name. When I last wrote about the legalization of homebrewing laws , most scoffed that the law would never be enforced. Technically the law is not being enforced, since I doubt they will persecute Oberman. Still Alabama is making an example of Oberman, and a man’s hobby will be taken away.
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Credits and Links
I live in Denver, Colorado. This blog is everything about beer, wine, cider, mead and other spirits.
I am a avid homebrewer and winemaker. I’ve been making my own beer and wine for many years. I started making beer when I was in college (mostly because the drinking age in the United States is 21). My first few beers were horrible. The beers are much better now, and I often supply my neighborhood with free beer! It is a great hobby!