Legality of Home Brewing in the United States
In 1920, the United States outlawed the manufacture and consumption of alcoholic beverages "for beverage purposes." As a result of Prohibition, breweries, vineyards, and distilleries across the United States were closed down or placed into service making malt for non-alcoholic purposes. During prohibition, home wine-making was treated more leniently as the result of a 1920 IRS ruling that loosened standards for allowable alcohol content for wine and cider but not for beer. Home brewing of beer having alcohol content higher than 0.5% remained illegal until 1978 when Congress passed a bill repealing Federal restrictions and excise taxes on the home brewing of small amounts of beer and wine.
Individual states remain free to restrict or prohibit the manufacture of beer, mead, hard cider, wine and other fermented alcoholic beverages at home. For example, Ala. Code § 28-1-1 addresses the illegal manufacture of alcoholic beverages in Alabama, and no other provision of Alabama law provides an exception for personal use brewing.
However, most states permit home brewing, allowing 100 gallons of beer per adult per year and up to a maximum of 200 gallons per household annually when there are two or more adults residing in the household. Because alcohol is taxed by the federal government via excise taxes, home brewers are restricted from selling any beer they brew. This similarly applies in most Western countries. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter signed into law a bill allowing home beers, which was at the time not permitted without paying the excise taxes as a holdover from the prohibition of alcoholic beverages (repealed in 1933). This change also exempted home brewers from posting a "penal bond" (which is currently $1000.00) which had the prohibitive effect of economically preventing brewers of small quantities from pursuing their hobby.
The United States, having an established home winemaking culture, moved rapidly into the brewing of beer. Within months of legalization, Charlie Papazian founded the Association of Brewers (now Brewers Association and American Homebrewers Association). In 1984, Papazian published The Complete Joy of Home Brewing. This and Line's work remain in print to this day alongside later publications such as Graham Wheeler's Home Brewing: The CAMRA Guide.
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