Is It Legal To Brew Your Own Beer in the US?

home brewing laws in the united states

One of the more rewarding things in life is the ability to do something yourself, yet some ambitious homebrewers across the US are curious about homebrewing laws. Is it legal to make your own beer in the United States, and how does it apply to you? The answer is very simple as you will soon find out in this brief guide to homebrewing legality in your home state.

The truth about homebrewing

When it comes to home brewing laws US folks are wondering about, it’s not hard to understand that this is a freedom that is part of American tradition. That’s not to say that it has been highly debated since 1979 and was left up to many states to regulate the right to brew beer or wine at home. The reason for this is also a fine line since homebrewing is not to be confused with alcohol distillation.

The act of alcohol distillation is still very much an activity that is illegal in all US states. Only recently, in 2013, did it finally become legal to brew beer and other forms of homebrewing activities in your own home. But these laws are once again, governed by a state-to-state provision of how much is allowed and who can brew these beverages. It’s also very interesting that many states will also have an additional provision for what the ABV Cap includes.

Since homebrewing is regulating the ‘Alcohol by Volume Cap’, this means that select states will set limits and further restrict the movement or transportation of these homebrews likewise. Let’s take a closer look at what the exact criteria are talking about.

Who can be a homebrewer?

You might just assume that you need to be 21 years of age to become a homebrewer, though you would be very surprised by the real answer. A majority of US states actually allow any legal adult to be 18 years old to brew beer, cider, mead, or wine. This also extends to the right to purchase brewing supplies, and equipment, and possess the finished product. Drinking of these finished products is typically 21 years of age, but this depends on select states.

You can find out more information about which states are allowing those to brew and which are requiring parental supervision or consent to brew.

How much can be produced?

Another interesting fact is the amount that is brewed in your home. The average amount is usually 100 gallons per year if only a single adult is brewing. If there are more than two adults per household the limit is 200 gallons per year. This is further regulated by what is brewed within 90 days, yet, once again, this is regulated by a state-to-state exception.

What is the legal alcohol level?

There is that sticky law that every state allows for what is considered the legal limit for what you can produce. Now, this tends to be obvious since beer doesn’t exceed 12-15% ABV, but could pertain to stronger brews such as cider, wine, and mead. For example, California is allowing 60% ABV whereas Alabama is 13-9%. Some states don’t allow anything over 4%, which can limit your homebrewing abilities, so it’s important to know what is allowed.

In many cases, most states simply don’t have a cap at all, so it’s regulated to what a homebrewer is comfortable with allowing as a limit. Suffice to say, most beer formulations are going to be 7-10% unless something higher is really all that necessary. If you are curious about what is allowed in your home state, you can check the limits for yourself.

How can homebrewed beverages be used?

Anything that is brewed in your home can be enjoyed by family members or served to guests visiting your home. There is a limit to how these brewed beverages are moved or taken out of your home and transported to private events outside your home. These must be limited to private family gatherings, club-sponsored events, or tasting competitions. The biggest rule is that these beverages must not be sold or offered as an item that is for sale.

The legality does get a bit murky when it comes to where and how transportation is allowed. You can take a look at what is allowed for transportation determined by a state-to-state ruling.

How are these homebrewing rules changing?

Many states are keen to focus on the freedom of their citizens becoming interesting in homebrewing and are stepping up their effort to help educate them further. The opportunities that can come from learning this craft often lead to small businesses that are highly lucrative in the microbrewery industry. Recently, the US Treasury has further noted these potentials for small businesses that are starting to emerge.

Since each state can modify select homebrewing rules, each state is careful to not overstep the federal law itself. As a result, the opportunities to become a player in the microbrewery game are often supported by many avenues that private homebrewers can explore. Many who have learned this craft become members of the ABA (American Homebrewers Association) and learn more about their craft.

Many of these annual conventions are excellent ways to network and start learning more about making homebrewing into a legal business. It’s very unclear if these specialized conventions allow for homebrew samples to be brought to be offered as samples. Legally, these conventions are private events that are sponsored, but once again it may very well be a matter of what is allowed in each state for tasting events.

Knowing your rights on the issue of whether is it legal to make your own beer in the US is also a matter of what your state is allowing. These rules can often change from each election cycle which has been seen as recently in Ohio. Other states will likely update or modify current existing laws. Since some of these laws that are listed here aren’t confirmed for every state, it’s recommended that you check in your home state for the latest updates.

Dan Specht

Dan has been homebrewing beer for 8 years and holds a level 2 certifiication as a Cicerone.

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