Homebrewing: Soon to be legal in all 50 states

Homebrewing will become legal in all 50 U.S. states, if Alabama's governor signs a recently passed bill. In March, Mississippi approved a bill that will take effect this summer.

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Homebrewing will become legal in all 50 U.S. states, if Alabama's governor signs a recently passed bill. In March, Mississippi approved a bill that will take effect this summer.

The Alabama legislature has approved a bill making it legal to brew beer at home, a practice that had been forbidden in the state. If Gov. Robert Bentley signs the bill, as is expected, homebrewing will soon be legal in all 50 states.

Alabama lawmakers voted on the bill to legalize homebrewing months after it was first introduced. And while it met with earlier debate and resistance, the arrival of the legislation — House Bill 9 — for a vote Tuesday night seems to have come to its supporters as a pleasant surprise.

Right To Brew, an advocacy group in Alabama, said that "after all hope seemed long lost, they brought up HB9 unexpectedly, out of the blue, and passed it 18 - 7 - 1 tonight, without a single word of debate. The Alabama Homebrew Bill has passed the Legislature!!!!"

Alabama had been in danger of becoming the only U.S. state in which it was illegal to brew beer at home. As we reported in March, Mississippi recently approved a homebrewing bill; Utah and Oklahoma enacted similar laws in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

Once enacted, the new law would mean that Alabamans who make their own beer "will no longer have the fear of arrest hanging over their heads for simply participating in a hobby that is enjoyed by residents of 48 other states," a representative of Right to Brew said in an email.

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Homebrewing has been growing in popularity along with the public's surge in interest in craft brewing. But the hobby had long been either forbidden or in a legal gray area. It wasn't until 1978 that it became legal under federal law.

The Alabama bill limits how much beer can be produced, and it forbids brewers from selling their beer. It also discourages stockpiling.

"The Bill allows 15 gallons to be produced every three months," says Rep. McCutcheon (R-AL 25th District), who introduced the bill, "and there shall be no more than an aggregate amount 15 gallons of beer, mead, cider and wine stored in the home."

Brewers must also keep their beers under the 14 percent alcohol by volume mark.

The Alabama legislation's success was welcomed by the American Homebrewers Association., which has advised state groups of brewers.

"After five years of working with Alabama homebrewers to legalize the hobby of homebrewing in the state," says AHA Director Gary Glass, "it is gratifying to see the Alabama legislature finally pass a homebrew bill."

Despite being passed by the state legislature after Mississippi's bill was approved, Alabama's homebrewing bill may take effect first — the Mississippi legislation is scheduled to take effect this July.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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