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Brewing and Winemaking in the Comforts of Home

Home brewing. Even Obama does it. Well, maybe not Obama himself, but he reaps the rewards of his staff’s fermentation adventures. Earlier this month, the White House’s beer recipes were released on the White House Blog (check them out here). With the release of the recipes, questions about home brewing and home winemaking have been rising. Each state has its own laws and regulations about making alcoholic beverages at home. Distilled spirits may never be made at home, as the distillation process raises too many safety issues. Most state laws are broad enough to encompass home production of both wine and beer. California’s law separately allows for home wine and home beer production (see Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 23356.2), while other states’ laws are often broad, like Illinois’ allowance which states that their laws do not “prevent the making of wine, cider or other alcoholic liquor by a person from fruits, vegetables or grains, or the products thereof, by simple fermentation and without distillation, if it is made solely for the use of the maker, his family and his guests…” 235 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/2-1. Alabama and Mississippi still do not recognize home brewing, although Mississippi does allow people to make homemade wine (see Miss. Code Ann. § 67-3-11.)

What’s most important to remember is the part in every state’s allowance about the products being made for the home. Home brewed beers and homemade wines cannot be sold to the public. Some states don’t allow homebrew to be taken outside the home, while others allow homebrew to be entered into contests and consumed by others, so long as there’s no charge involved. The federal allowance for home brewing without payment of tax caps production at 200 gallons per year for a household in which two or more adults reside and 100 gallons per year for a household with only one adult (see 27 C.F.R. § 25.205). Home wine production without payment of federal tax has the same 200 gallons for households with two or more adults and 100 gallons for households with only one adult yearly production cap under the federal regulations (see 27 C.F.R. § 24.75). Like other alcoholic beverage laws, allowances vary by state. So if you’re planning on whipping up your own White House Honey Ale or Honey Porter this fall, remember to keep in mind your state’s laws and regulations on home fermentation.


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