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General Category => General Homebrew Discussion => Topic started by: gabetoth on March 11, 2011, 06:53:46 PM

Title: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: gabetoth on March 11, 2011, 06:53:46 PM
My business partner and I (at the nearly open Taos Ale House) have been discussing eisbier for a few years, and our impression has been that eis-ing is considered an artificial method of concentrating alcohol and so is legally categorized as a distilled product requiring a distiller's license.

However, we've been unable to verify this with the actual legal code or statute, and have heard of occasional eis-style beers being offered in the United States. Can anyone me to any material that would clarify this issue for us?

Thanks!

gabe
Title: Re: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: dbeechum on March 11, 2011, 07:07:13 PM
I'll admit, I'm confused too.

Some folks at least believe it to me legal and the TTB has allowed things like the old Kulmbacher Eisbock or any of the new "Mega" Beers from Brew Dog on the shores.
Title: Re: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: tschmidlin on March 11, 2011, 07:52:03 PM
From what I've been told it is not considered distillation and breweries can do it if they like.

Also, Redhook released an eisbock this year, I doubt they would have done it if they weren't sure of the legalities.  Of course, just because they call it an eisbock doesn't mean they actually removed any water.
Title: Re: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: denny on March 11, 2011, 08:04:18 PM
I agree with Tom, but unless there's a lawyer who's familiar with local and Federal statutes on this board, you'd be better off contacting a lawyer or the ATF than asking homebrewers for a legal opinion.  I mean, would ya ask your lawyer about mash temps?
Title: Re: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: Pawtucket Patriot on March 11, 2011, 08:12:00 PM
I mean, would ya ask your lawyer about mash temps?

If his name was Pawtucket Patriot, you certainly could!   ;D

I would echo Denny's advice though. Local alcohol-related regulations are often very complex. If you're unsure about being in compliance, you should seek out a local attorney with specialized knowledge of the regulations in your jurisdiction.
Title: Re: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: maxieboy on March 11, 2011, 08:12:36 PM
I agree with Tom, but unless there's a lawyer who's familiar with local and Federal statutes on this board, you'd be better off contacting a lawyer or the ATF than asking homebrewers for a legal opinion.  I mean, would ya ask your lawyer about mash temps?

If it was Pawtucket Patriot, then yes... ;D

edit: look at that timing!!!

Title: Re: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: Pawtucket Patriot on March 11, 2011, 08:14:08 PM
I agree with Tom, but unless there's a lawyer who's familiar with local and Federal statutes on this board, you'd be better off contacting a lawyer or the ATF than asking homebrewers for a legal opinion.  I mean, would ya ask your lawyer about mash temps?

If it was Pawtucket Patriot, then yes... ;D

edit: Look at that timing!!!

Wow, great minds?!  ;D ;D
Title: Re: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: maxieboy on March 11, 2011, 08:15:50 PM
Nope, just one! (you)  ;)
Title: Re: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: Pawtucket Patriot on March 11, 2011, 08:19:53 PM
Nope, just one! (you)  ;)

You've obviously been pouring a few Friday pints already! ;)
Title: Re: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: gabetoth on March 11, 2011, 08:20:04 PM
Thanks guys. We'd definitely do the deeper legal research before turning out an eisbier, but that's a ways off. I just thought I'd see if this issue is as confusing to everyone else as it is to us, or if we're missing something, some easy answer.

And our attorney does indeed know a few things about mash temps ...
Title: Re: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: bluesman on March 11, 2011, 08:28:05 PM
I've heard it both ways. Some say it is and others believe not. I think it will depend on how the law will be interpreted if bought to a court's attention.

Eisbock beer created via freeze distillation of doppelbock beer. Increasing the strength of beer by "freeze distillation" is the process of enriching the beer by partially freezing it and removing frozen material that is poorer in alcohol than the liquid portion left behind. The question is whether or not the law will interpret this process as distillation.

According to 26 USCS § 5002 the terms distilled spirits, alcoholic spirits, and spirits means “substance known as ethyl alcohol, ethanol, or spirits of wine in any form (including all dilutions and mixtures thereof from whatever source or by whatever process produced)."

I'm not a lawyer but there are some members here that are...maybe we can get some interpretation from them.

Edit:

I mean, would ya ask your lawyer about mash temps?

If his name was Pawtucket Patriot, you certainly could!   ;D

I would echo Denny's advice though. Local alcohol-related regulations are often very complex. If you're unsure about being in compliance, you should seek out a local attorney with specialized knowledge of the regulations in your jurisdiction.

...and look who chimes in while I'm typing.

Sounds like great advice Matt and Denny.  :)

Title: Re: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: tomsawyer on March 11, 2011, 08:53:04 PM
http://northernbrewer.blogspot.com/2010/12/its-winter-so-eis-something.html
Title: Re: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: Thirsty_Monk on March 11, 2011, 08:56:39 PM
Do you have Brewers Notice?
If yes contact your friendly TTB agent.
They will be more then willing to help.

Another thing is that by freezing you are removing volume.
Beer is taxed by volume (not by % of alcohol).
You would still have to have process permit by TTB because in essence you are reducing volume and government is losing tax.
Title: Re: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: gabetoth on March 11, 2011, 09:36:22 PM
We're still waiting for our Brewers Notice, got the state and town taken care of already. We'll definitely talk to someone at the bureau and diligently research the federal and state statutes ... when that time comes. I just wanted to see what the good citizens of Forumland might know, kind of a pre-pre-preliminary step.
Title: Re: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: tubercle on March 11, 2011, 11:14:46 PM
What would happen if you "accidentally" left it outside on a freezing night?
Title: Re: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: dbeechum on March 11, 2011, 11:23:18 PM
The feds, if it's the case that they don't like Eisbock, would take a dim view on your accident. (at least if you went and sold it to the public)
Title: Re: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: tubercle on March 12, 2011, 12:45:48 AM
That's what I'm thinking too. :(

 They're first cousin to the IR$; got their own definitions.
Title: Re: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: corkybstewart on March 12, 2011, 01:17:48 AM
We're still waiting for our Brewers Notice, got the state and town taken care of already. We'll definitely talk to someone at the bureau and diligently research the federal and state statutes ... when that time comes. I just wanted to see what the good citizens of Forumland might know, kind of a pre-pre-preliminary step.
When you speak of the almost open Taos Ale House are you referring to Taos New Mexico?  I need another reason to head north since I'm too old and beaten down to ski.
Title: Re: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: narcout on March 12, 2011, 01:43:49 AM
There is, apparently, an article in the Winter 1995 issue of Zymurgy by Dennis Davison that covers this. I don't have access to the article and have not read it (and of course it is fairly dated at this point), but here is a quote I found on another forum.  I make no claim as to its accuracy.  Tracking down the article might be a good starting place.

"According to Bureauf of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms officials, the process of freezing beer and removing ice is called concentrating.  A brewer may not employ any process of concentration that separates alcohol spirits from any
fermented beverage, and since ice is being removed from beer, this concentration procedure is legal."

Title: Re: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: Thirsty_Monk on March 12, 2011, 02:29:05 AM
What would happen if you "accidentally" left it outside on a freezing night?

In the worst case you would lose your Brewers License and you would be out of business.
Title: Re: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: chaz on March 12, 2011, 09:11:37 AM
IIRC, there was an episode of Basic Brewing where they contacted the TTB to clarify on whether it was legal. They said it was fine as freeze concentration didn't fall under distilling...
Title: Re: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: tschmidlin on March 12, 2011, 09:54:21 AM
IIRC, there was an episode of Basic Brewing where they contacted the TTB to clarify on whether it was legal. They said it was fine as freeze concentration didn't fall under distilling...
You're the man Chaz, I think that's where I heard it.  See you in SD . . . ?
Title: Re: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: dbeechum on March 12, 2011, 09:56:51 AM
IIRC, there was an episode of Basic Brewing where they contacted the TTB to clarify on whether it was legal. They said it was fine as freeze concentration didn't fall under distilling...

Good find, but if I had money on the line, I'd want someone legally liable for saying "yes".

:)
Title: Re: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: bluesman on March 12, 2011, 04:16:43 PM
IIRC, there was an episode of Basic Brewing where they contacted the TTB to clarify on whether it was legal. They said it was fine as freeze concentration didn't fall under distilling...

Good find, but if I had money on the line, I'd want someone legally liable for saying "yes".

:)

I think we would all love to believe this to be the case but I'm hearing some news to the contrary. It's confusing.

http://beernews.org/2010/04/redhook-brewery-tempts-regulators-with-new-eisbock-28-beer/

http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:Ei9ZDH7VWBcJ:www.ttb.gov/press/fy09/press-release-samuel-adams-and-boston-beer.pdf+ttb+boston+beer&hl=en&gl=us&sig=AHIEtbQXeAsw5g4AqLROPmFtTo4gKAzCKw
Title: Re: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: maxieboy on March 12, 2011, 04:46:09 PM
What are we looking for at beernews.org? The other link doesn't work for me.
Title: Re: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: cheba420 on March 12, 2011, 04:47:53 PM
I "accidentally" turned my dispensing fridge down too low and wound up with an Ice PA once. Opps! :) Had to skim all that ice out and get rid of it! Wound up being pretty tasty.

Of course....I wasnt selling it to anyone.
Title: Re: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: bluesman on March 12, 2011, 05:05:10 PM
What are we looking for at beernews.org? The other link doesn't work for me.

Sorry for the bad links. I fixed it.
Title: Re: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: maxieboy on March 12, 2011, 05:22:17 PM
Got 'em. Thanks.
Title: Re: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: gabetoth on March 14, 2011, 05:38:58 PM
Yes, we're in Taos, NM, probably under two months now from opening. We'll be right across the street from the Post Office and Michael's Kitchen, just north of the plaza. Pop in and say hi if you're up here!

gabe
Title: Re: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: jeffy on March 14, 2011, 06:09:24 PM
Yes, we're in Taos, NM, probably under two months now from opening. We'll be right across the street from the Post Office and Michael's Kitchen, just north of the plaza. Pop in and say hi if you're up here!

gabe
Is Michael's Kitchen the one where half the decor is angelic and half is devilish?  Loved that place.
Title: Re: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: gabetoth on March 14, 2011, 07:49:36 PM
Michael's Kitchen is just a cool old local restaurant. What you're describing might be Saints and Sinners in Espanola, about 40 miles south of Taos, or maybe somewhere here in town that I haven't gone to (we have a bevy of restaurants in Taos, and plenty I haven't visited).

gabe
Title: Re: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: scott on March 14, 2011, 08:38:29 PM
What would happen if you "accidentally" left it outside on a freezing night?

In the worst case you would lose your Brewers License and you would be out of business.

Actually the worst case is worse than that.  You could go to jail.  It is a federal offense.

My limited understanding is that freezing to concentrate ethanol is considered distilling.  My information comes from a book about making hard apple cider.  They clearly explained that distilling and freezing to concentrate the ethanol is illegal.  I have not reviewed the actual law though. 

If you are serious about doing this I would consul an attorney.  Do not rely upon what someone else is doing.  Also, asking a government agency about whether it is illegal or not is in most cases not good enough.  If the person who spoke to you is mistaken, that will not protect you from violating the law. 
Title: Re: Legality of brewing eisbier
Post by: denny on March 14, 2011, 08:47:26 PM
I've read several fairly authoritative opinions that freezing is not distilling.  The rationale is that in distilling you're removing alcohol and in freeze concentration you're removing water.  But as I said before, we're all guessing here.