You Can Create Your Own Homebrew, But Don’t Try to Sell It

Posted October 15, 2012 in Criminal Law Government by


Each year, more people take up homebrewing of beer, wine, hard cider and other beverages. Some hobbyists adopt this craft because of the popular “eat and drink local” movement. Some do it because it’s science. Some do it because it’s creative.

Even the Obama White House is making and bottling its own home brew.


Homebrewing Is a Popular Hobby

According to the American Homebrewers Association, which has more than 30,000 members, one million Americans brew beer at home at least once a year. Many others produce their own wine. Homebrewing serves as a start for many future owners and skilled employees of small businesses.

Homebrewers and vintners are curious. When can they start to sell their product rather than giving it away? Can they set up a booth at a local farmer’s market or festival?


Homebrewing Is Legal in the United States

The making of a limited amount of wine or beer at home is legal in the United States. Production of wine or hard cider has been legal since Prohibition ended in 1933. The production of full-strength beer at home has been legal since 1979. Production of homemade distilled alcohol, however, remains illegal throughout the United States.


State Rules Vary

The 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution leaves regulation of alcohol to the states.  All states, except for Mississippi and Alabama, allow the homebrewing of beer or wine. No permits are required. In general, states allow production of 100 gallons of beer or wine per adult, per year, up to a maximum of 200 gallons per household.

Seventeen of the states that allow homebrewing include restrictions on consumption and transportation outside the home (to a competition, fundraiser, or social gathering, for example). Some limit consumption to family members. Others include guests. Others limit consumption to the home. To be sure, check the regulations in your home state.


Never Legal to Sell

It is never legal to sell the beer or wine you make at home. Some producers try to get around this restriction with gambits like selling the bottle and including the beverage for free, or selling “shares” in a homebrewing operation. Although the law is still developing at this point, experts doubt these workarounds will stand up in court.

Because alcohol is subject to federal excise taxes, homebrewers are restricted from selling their beverages. Those wishing to move beyond personal enjoyment can become duly qualified under federal, state and local laws, or they can have their product manufactured by a licensed, permitted and bonded wine or beer producer.


A Business Lawyer Can Help

The law surrounding home production of beer, wine and other allowed alcoholic beverages can be complicated, and the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a business lawyer.

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