The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, enacting prohibition in 1919, made homebrewing in the U.S. illegal. The 21st Amendment repealed prohibition in 1933, however, the implementing legislation that went with the repeal of prohibition mistakenly left out the legalization of home beer making (home wine making was legalized at that time).
On October 14, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed H.R. 1337, which contained an amendment sponsored by Senator Alan Cranston creating an exemption from taxation for beer brewed at home for personal or family use. This exemption went into effect in February 1979.
The 21st Amendment predominantly leaves regulation of alcohol to the states. Thus, even though homebrewing is federally legal, it is still up to individual states to legalize homebrewing in state codes. The vast majority of states have legalized homebrewing, though laws regarding homebrewing vary widely. Some states have very specific laws that outline exactly what can and cannot be done with homebrew, others are vaguer. There are laws that limit consumption of homebrew solely to the residence where it was brewed, while other laws allow for transportation to events such as homebrew competitions and club meetings.
In 2013, the last two states remaining with laws against homebrewing, Mississippi and Alabama, passed legislation to permit making beer at home. Alabama law went into effect immediately after the Governor signed the bill, while Mississippi law will not go into effect until July 1, 2013.
Browse the laws of individual states and the nation above.
AHA Director Gary Glass with Rep. Christine Johnson, sponsor of HB51, which legalized homebrewing in Utah in 2009.
The American Homebrewers Association can help! While the AHA does not have the resources to maintain a lobbyist in every state, the AHA can assist local homebrewing communities to organize effective grassroots campaign to enact new laws or get existing laws changed. When acting as a community, homebrewers have strength in numbers to enact change.
Plan of Action
Use the AHA as a resource. Check current laws for homebrewing in your state on the AHA website.
Identify the legislative issue to address (e.g. it is not legal to transport homebrew outside the home where it was brewed).
Determine if pursuing legislative change is worth the risk inherent with the scrutiny that attempting the change the law will bring. For example, if it is technically not legal to share homebrew at a club meeting in your state, but there has not been any enforcement of that law, it may not be worth exposure of homebrew club activities, when changing the law is not guaranteed and could end up taking years to accomplish.
Contact the AHA staff to get information on any past or current legislative efforts in your state.
Start Organizing: Contact homebrewers and homebrew clubs in your state to let them know you intend to work towards legalizing homebrewing and request their support in the effort. Forming an email distribution list (free from Google or Yahoo) for representatives from your state’s homebrew clubs and homebrew shops is a good way to facilitate communications and develop consensus on strategy and tactics.
Contact state senators and representatives to find a sympathetic legislator who will sponsor your bill (it is preferable to have sponsors in both the House and Senate if possible). Lining up a sponsor prior to the start of the next legislative session will help in getting legislation through the often frustratingly slow legislative process.
The AHA can help with drafting language for a bill.
Once the bill is registered, the AHA can help mobilize AHA members, BA brewery members, and the BA Support Your Local Brewery network to contact legislators urging support for the bill.
AHA staff can be available to testify on behalf of the bill during legislative committee hearings.
The AHA can help generate media attention for the bill.
For information contact:
Gary Glass AHA Director PO Box 1679 Boulder, CO 80306-1679 Phone: (303) 447-0816, ext. 121 Fax: (303) 447-2825 email@example.com
We look forward to hearing from you.
Note: The information presented here is to the best of our knowledge and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice specific to the laws of your state.