Talking Points on Legalizing Homebrewing

With thanks to Gary Glass of the American Homebrewers Association.

Many people do not understand the importance of homebrewing to the overall beer culture. It's not just a few guys brewing beer in their backyard, but a careful, methodical approach which combines art with science.

Today's homebrewers are tomorrow's master brewers. Most craft beers began as a homebrew, and most professional brewmasters started brewing at home. Without homebrewers, there is no future for the excellent beer we can currently enjoy.

As it currently stands, it is illegal to make your own beer, wine, mead or cider in Alabama, even if it's only for your personal consumption. Free The Hops is trying to change this with senate bill SB355 to enable our brewers to make small quantities of high-quality beer, wine, mead or cider at home.

Here we have 9 Talking Points, based on common questions asked about homebrewing, to help correct some of the inaccuracies and misunderstandings. To find out more, we have some books we recommend.

1. Homebrewing has a long history in American tradition

  • Beer has been brewed in people's homes since the dawn of agriculture several thousand years ago.
  • In colonial times homebrewing was a common household practice, typically performed by women.
  • Many of the Nation's founding fathers, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin, were homebrewers.

2. Legalization

  • Homebrewing was federally legalized in 1978 for the first time since Prohibition made it illegal in 1919.
  • Homebrewing is currently (as of February 2008) legal in 45 states.

3. How many homebrewers are there in the United States?

  • It is difficult to estimate, but the AHA uses a very conservative figure of at least 500,000 Americans who brew beer at home at least once a year.
  • There are currently over 16,000 members of the American Homebrewers Association.

4. Who are homebrewers?

(based on answers to an AHA demographics survey)
American homebrewers come from a diverse array of backgrounds, however, there are some common traits:
  • A majority of homebrewers have technical or professional occupations.
  • They are well educated, with the vast majority having college degrees.
  • Most homebrewers fall into the middle to upper-middle class income range.
  • The majority of homebrewers are married.

5. Why do Americans homebrew?

  • The #1 reason for brewing among AHA members is that they like the creative/artistic aspects of homebrewing.
    Creating a well-crafted beer at home is much like cooking a gourmet meal at home.
  • The #2 reason for brewing among AHA members is that they like the scientific aspects of brewing.
    The process of brewing beer involves biochemistry and thermodynamics. Many brewers also build some of their own equipment, which can involve metallurgy, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering.

6. Homebrew is safe

  • The brewing process is safe. Unlike distilling, homebrewing does not involve the production of flammable liquids and does not involve high pressures.
  • There are no known pathogens that can survive in beer.

7. Homebrewers are responsible consumers of alcohol

  • For homebrewers, who have a deep knowledge of the ingredients of beer and the brewing and fermentation process, the primary reason for consuming beer is to enjoy the diverse array of flavors and aromas that can be found in beer. They approach beer much like wine connoisseurs approach fine wine.
  • Homebrewers are very well aware of the affects of alcohol and their personal limits. As a result, they are more responsible than most other consumers of alcohol.
  • Homebrewers serve as examples to others for how to consume alcohol in a responsible manner.
  • Homebrewers are the leading supporters of local small commercial craft breweries, which contribute jobs and tax dollars to their communities, and which typically support charitable causes in their communities.

8. Legalizing homebrewing will not lead to an increased in underage drinking

We cannot stress this enough.
  • There are other forms of alcohol currently available (e.g. sub-premium beer, malt liquor, fortified wine, sub-premium spirits) that are cheaper and much more easily attainable for minors.
  • Homebrewing requires a fairly substantial initial investment in equipment ($80-$120) that minors would be unlikely to want or be able to spend.
  • The equipment is bulky and cannot be easily hidden.
  • A single batch of beer takes a minimum of three weeks to produce. Most take longer than that.
  • Every batch of beer will take several hours of work to produce.

9. Why allow homebrew to be used for organized events?

  • The majority of homebrewers in the U.S. enter competitions.
  • There are over 200 homebrew competitions held in the U.S. each year.
  • Homebrew competitions are judged by certified beer judges.
  • Judging provides feedback to homebrewers, which will help them improve their brewing skills.
  • Judges go through a rigorous exam process to become certified beer judges (click here for information on beer judge certification).
  • Judging involves tasting very small samples (generally 1-2 oz per entry) of the beers entered.