Some­thing to drink to for brew­ers

Leg­is­la­ture OKS bill on home­made beers and wines

The Washington Times Daily - - Nation - BY BAR­BARA RO­DRIGUEZ

MADI­SON, WIS. | About the only thing Kevin Flynn en­joys more than drink­ing his home-brewed beer is shar­ing it with fel­low beer-club mem­bers at fes­ti­vals and tast­ing com­pe­ti­tions. So Mr. Flynn and his bud­dies were shocked to dis­cover that Wis­con­sin law pro­hibits shar­ing home­made suds any­where out­side the brewer’s home.

The law could “pretty much be the end of com­pe­ti­tions in Wis­con­sin,” he lamented. “At least le­gal ones.”

An ex­plo­sion of in­ter­est in home brew­ing is forc­ing law­mak­ers across the coun­try to re­view long-for­got­ten al­co­hol laws, some of which date back to Pro­hi­bi­tion. Although the old rules have rarely been en­forced, beer en­thu­si­asts fear they could crim­i­nal­ize the rapidly grow­ing hobby and kill scores of an­nual tast­ing events that bring tourists to small towns and cities.

In Wis­con­sin, Mr. Flynn and other home brew­ers may soon be off the hook. The state leg­is­la­ture last week passed a bill to al­low them to trans­port home­made beer and wine and to share it with other adults. Brew­ers will still not be per­mit­ted to sell any­thing they make, and they will re­main ex­empt from per­mit re­quire­ments and taxes.

The pro­posal now heads to Gov. Scott Walker, who plans to sign it into law.

At least 17 states have am­bigu­ous laws on whether home brew­ers can trans­port beer or wine out­side the home, ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Home­brew­ers As­so­ci­a­tion in Boul­der, Colo.

The patch­work of rules can be frus­trat­ing for hob­by­ists who would pre­fer to spend their time ex­chang­ing recipes for pale ale or rhap­sodiz­ing about dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties of hops, bar­ley and yeast.

Some states, in­clud­ing Ge­or­gia and South Carolina, have re­stric­tions sim­i­lar to Wis­con­sin’s. In Kansas and Min­nesota, home brew­ers can only make bev­er­ages for them­selves or fam­ily mem­bers. Other states per­mit home­made beer and wine to be con­sumed by guests, too, as in Ari­zona, Hawaii, Idaho and Illi­nois.

Dan Grady of the Wis­con­sin Home­brew­ers Al­liance, who led the leg­isla­tive ef­fort to re­vise his state’s law, said beer brew­ers need to be watch­ful in case states try to use the is­sue to gen­er­ate money for their tight bud­gets.

“States are un­der enor­mous pres­sure. It’s a rev­enue is­sue,” he said. “Ev­ery­thing is on the ta­ble these days.”

Gary Glass, di­rec­tor of the home brew­ers as­so­ci­a­tion, said it’s a bal­anc­ing act when con­sid­er­ing whether to pur­sue a change in the law.

“The ques­tion be­comes: At what point does the home-brew­ing com­mu­nity want to take on hav­ing the law changed if it’s not re­ally hav­ing an im­pact to what they’re do­ing?”

Home brew­ing was il­le­gal in the United States un­til 1978, when the fed­eral gov­ern­ment lifted Pro­hi­bi­tion­era 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. Many states have their own home-brew­ing rules that su­per­sede fed­eral poli­cies.


Kevin Flynn shows off some of the brew­ing equip­ment he uses to make beer at his home in Cale­do­nia, Wis., ear­lier this month.

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