Looks Like Wisconsin Wins This One, Well Done People!

Growing interest in home brewing prompts changes to alcohol laws that date back to Prohibition

“In this economy, you’re stifling an industry that’s growing,” he said. “It sounds like a bad move.”

More than ever, people with little or no experience brewing beer or other fermented beverages are investing in kits and ingredients to make their own. The hobby has expanded into a vibrant beer culture, with brewers freely sharing their concoctions among neighbors and friends and in clubs and competitions.
( Journal Times, Mark Hertzberg / Associated Press ) - In this Sept. 17, 2011 photo, Amber Hill, left, and her father, Howard Hill, wait to sample another beer at the annual Great Lakes Brew Fest at the Racine Zoo, in Racine, Wis. An explosion of interest in home beer brewing is forcing lawmakers across the country to review long-forgotten alcohol laws, some of which date back to Prohibition.

 An explosion of interest in home beer brewing is forcing lawmakers across the country to review long-forgotten alcohol laws, some of which date back to Prohibition.

Last year, there were 411 beer competitions sanctioned by the home brewers association and the Beer Judge Certification Program. That’s up from fewer than 100 in the early 1990s.

“Back in the day, everybody thought home brewing would just be what your grandfather would do,” said Jason Heindel, president of the Beer Barons of Milwaukee Cooperative.

Home brewing has also helped invigorate the booming craft brewing industry. And it’s generated a cottage industry of its own. An annual survey of brewing supply shops around the country showed an increase in sales for beginner brewing kits, according to the home brewing association.

Home brewing was illegal in the United States until 1978, when the federal government lifted Prohibition-era restrictions on making alcohol in the home. The revised law allowed homemade beer and wine to be offered at tasting competitions but also left most alcohol regulations up to individual states. So many states have their own home-brewing rules that supersede federal policies.

In Wisconsin last year, brewers were caught off guard when the state Department of Revenue ruled that it was illegal for home brewers to share beer outside the home. The decision came after Racine officials inquired about a contest known as the Schooner Home Brew Competition.

After the department’s announcement, organizers quietly moved the contest, one of the state’s largest, from Racine to nearby Union Grove. But they didn’t advertise it because they feared possible fines.

Grady said home brewers in other states can learn from Wisconsin.

“Home brewers need to look at their state law, because they might be just as ambiguous as Wisconsin,” he said. “And if there’s ambiguity, they need to contact their lawmakers to get them clarified, much like we’re doing here.”

 

 

 

 

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