Homebrewing Is Illegal

industry — By on March 17, 2008 at 2:50 pm

After prohibition home winemaking was legalized by federal law.  The lawmakers in 1933 forgot to add “and/or beer” when writing the new law.  There are two reasons no one corrected this flaw.  The first is because large breweries lobbied against it.  The other reason was the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) wanted to keep the law in place so they could prosecute home distillers before they distilled their liquor.  That “anti-loophole” remained in place for 44 years.

Finally everyone got tired of drinking crappy beer and pushed to get the law changed.  This is the history every homebrewer knows.  What you might not know is the changed law provided the right for states to ultimately decide if it should be legal.  Hard to believe, but some states have different laws than other states.  Sure it is weird that you can’t turn right at a red light in Texas, but are the “important laws” really different?

supreme court

Even though Jimmy Carter made homebrewing legal, it's still not legal in all states

Not legal in Utah or Alabama

Then someone mentions Utah and their theocracy .  Oh yeah, you think, but you can’t really count Utah.   That state is just weird.  In 2008, the Utah representatives passed a resolution to legalize homebrewing, but the bill is currently held up in the Utah senate.  Some see this as a stalling tactic in hopes that the bill will die.  Either way, homebrewing in Utah is currently illegal.  Hopefully the law will change within the next few weeks.  So you can’t make beer in Utah, but you can elsewhere right?  No.

Alabama is fighting a similar battle.  In Alabama, not only can you not brew beer at home, you can’t even buy a beer that is higher than 6% ABV unless you are on a military base.  Military bases are subject to federal law, not state law.  As in Utah, religion is fighting the battle against the homebrewers.  What is the Alabama Southern Baptists argument against homebrewing?  “Beer corrupts the mind, body and soul”.  And of course, they pulled the “think of the children” card.    It is scary that religion in America could influence on laws that restrict personal behavior in 2008.

The list does not stop at Utah and Alabama.  Delaware, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, and Oklahoma all do not have laws that protect the right to brew beer at home.  Kentucky and Oklahoma even have stiff penalties for producing alcohol.  In most cases, the state just does not specify the legality either way.  While the laws in these states were written to prevent distillation, the laws can be interpreted to prosecute homebrewing.

Homebrew laws are not clear in other states

Several other states the law is very unclear.  In Louisiana, Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and New York no one is really sure if it is legal or not.  These states have laws that could be interpreted either way and the laws have not been tested in court.  Louisiana law comes close to being tested with State v. Jordan, 20 So.2d 543.   In 1944 Dennis Jordan was arrested for making homebrew; however the State Supreme Court ruled making four bottles of homebrew did not equal manufacturing beer.  If a police officer decides to arrest you for homebrew in the other states, the ruling can go either way.  Do you feel lucky?

In South Carolina and West Virgina, the laws are even weirder.  In South Carolina, you can make beer as long as it is not over 5% ABV.  No tripels for South Carolina!  West Virginia law it is unclear how the law applies to beer.  You can possibly make “non-intoxicating beer”, but the law is fuzzy if homebrewers need a license.  “Non-intoxicating beer” is beer that is 6% ABV or lower.  Again you’re at the mercy of the court is someone decides to arrest you.

There are groups, like the American Homebrewers Association, that are trying to reverse or clarify the laws in many states.  You can always check the current status of your state on their site.

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!

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  • BeerNut

    It's funny that all of the states on this list are the home states of every guest that has ever been on The Jerry Springer Show.

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  • guest

    Uhm, just to let you know… I live in Texas, and you can definitely turn right at red lights here. Where’d ya hear that you couldn’t??

    Not really relevant to the main thesis of the article, but I just thought you should know.

  • http://www.fermentarium.com deege

    It might have changed. I know I’ve had many relatives from Texas who would drive me crazy sitting at red lights, but you are correct, current statues allow for it now.

  • FuckBeerNut

    From Iowa where I brew and distill whatever I want – Jerry who?

  • Ianmci13

    if you actually knew anything, you would know that jimmy carter legalized homebrewing. you can legally brew 100 gallons of beer in a year. 200 if you have 2 or more adults living in the house.

  • http://www.fermentarium.com deege

    The 21st Amendment leaves regulation of alcohol to the states. Even though homebrewing is federally legal, it is still up to individual states to legalize homebrewing in state codes.

    Ala. Code § 28-1-1 – “In all counties of the state it shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to 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 within the state or imported into the state from any other place without authority of the alcoholic control board of the state, and any person, firm or corporation violating this provision or who transports any illegally manufactured alcoholic beverages or who manufactures illegally any alcoholic beverages shall, upon conviction, be punished as provided by law.”

  • Tony

    Homebrewing of beer in Oklahoma has been legalized! Cited in this link
    http://beernews.org/2010/05/oklahoma-legalizes-homebrew-beer/

  • http://www.fermentarium.com deege

    That’s very good news!

  • Guest

    Utah may be a theocracy, but they did legalize home brewing, check it out.
    http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/Utah_legalizes_homebrewing

  • http://www.fermentarium.com deege

    Yep, March 29th, 2009.  The article was written 2008, so it’s out of date.

  • Mechanical_prints2
  • Graniteman31

    Utah did pass the law making home brewing ‘legal’ – finally. It was so absurd before the legislature acted – you could buy the equipment and supplies, but were “breaking the law’ if you used them. Same for winemaking – buy a kit, but don’t dare make it. HA!

    Same for rainbarrels. “What?” You say. We can buy or make rain collecting barrels, but it’s illegal to use them. All rainwater “belongs” to the State of Utah. True.

  • guest

    Turning right on red has been legal In Texas since at least 1987, which is when I got my driver’s license.

  • guest

    In fact, in ’87 it was also legal to turn LEFT on red, as long as you were turning from a one-way street, to another one-way street, and you were in the left-most lane when you made your turn.