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The Legal Status of Homebrewing in the USA

As of the first day of July 2013, home brewing, the practice of making your own beer, became legal in all 50 states. Utah, Oklahoma, Alabama and Mississippi were the last U.S. states to accommodate home brewers with explicit laws of their respective legislatures that overturned the longstanding outlawed status of the home brew. That still wasn’t enough time to brew any beer to celebrate Independence Day in Mississippi. However, the prospect now remains open and accessible cause that should be viable for now until 2014 and beyond.

Home brew has been recognized to be legal since 1978 under the federal law signed into effect by President Jimmy Carter, but not every state had overturned its prohibitive laws. Don’t expect states to follow suit on behalf of any necessity by extending such recognition commercially to additional state counties without due process of law.

The aftermath of alcohol prohibition — officially the law of the land after Jan. 16, 1919, that had once called for absolute eradication of alcohol served as a beverage until its subsequent repeal on Dec. 5, 1933 — was determined in a new constitutional amendment. The new amendment made explicit that any legal status of alcohol would be determined thereafter by the laws of the United States on a territorial or otherwise state basis.

Although Alabama was technically the final U.S. legislature to provide for recognizing home brew as legal, the Mississippi law took effect after 90 days on July 1st. Nevertheless, state law does not generally recognize unlimited license to brew. Some states, such as Mississippi, set a limit to 100 gallons per year per home resident, while some states, such as Washington state, set the limit on transport at 20 gallons per person. Alabama has a much leaner take on the subject, accepting no more than 15 gallons of alcohol quarterly in any given year — and no more than that stored at home.

But not all states allow home brew in areas legally considered dry counties. And not all states provide regulations for transporting beer beyond the home. In such situations; sharing with others, selling the beverage, and competing in taste tests or exhibiting the beer may be prohibited.

To know with greater certainty, the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) summarizes the laws of each state from a link on the association’s home page.

In the words of “USA Today” writer Stacy Jones, who in the Aug. 9, 2010 edition of the publication details in an interview with Gary Glass of the AHA titled State laws kill buzz of home brews, “Most states permit home brewing by defaulting to federal law, which permits people 21 and older to brew 100 gallons per calendar year without a license and prohibits them from selling it, says Gary Glass, director of the American Homebrewers Association.”

Basic Brewing offers both podcasts and videocasts that relate to home brew, as well as a backlogue RSS feed-style archive that every once in a while addresses the topic of state law for the home brewer. For example, the May 14th, 2013 “Alabama Legal” podcast covered Alabama’s new home brew law. A November 5, 2009 podcast entitled “AHA Update with Gary Glass – Basic Brewing Radio” overviews home brew law in Kentucky. The Feb. 14th, 2008 “Basic Brewing Radio – Homebrew History” podcast talks about the 30 years after home brewing became legal under federal law, complete with 2 interviews, one with ‘Joy of Home Brewing’ author Charlie Papazian.

Milwaukee Business Journal’s Jeff Engle notes White House support for homebrewing in the 2nd term Obama administration, Q4 2012. The President hosted Deb Carey of the New Glarus Brewing Company, its founder and president, and sent a sample of the beer along for take-home evaluation.

Something of a home brewing revolution has obviously taken hold throughout the 50 states. Now, many people may be so inclined to lobby their legislatures for specific affirmation of their rights to transport and feature alcohol in competitions, fairs and contests in their home states and provide any needful regulations to simplify the perpetual issue of policing when such cases have been discovered. With the advent of federal acceptance of home brewing in 1978, the 2013 embrace by the union of states of alcohol as a beverage qualified for making at home represents the truly remarkable stature of devotion to the science of home production nationwide. There has never been a more buoyant and supportive political atmosphere from east to west and north to south in affirmation of the popular hobby of brewing your own beer. And if the words of the host of the Basic Brewing podcast, James Spencer, are any indication, “The spirit of home is not to make it to sell. The spirit of home brewing is to make it to share.”

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