It has been almost seven years since the bill legalizing homebrewing in Alabama went into effect, making it the 49th state to do so. The new law was a celebrated win for the homebrewing community and big step forward; however, there is still more to be done. When one looks at the statute in more detail, its limitations become quickly apparent. In particular, several components stand out.
- The law limits the household production in any given quarter (i.e., three-month period) to 15 gallons, with a total volume of 15 gallons being allowed at the residence at any given time. You read it right, folks. Just 60 gallons per year. While this doesn’t present a major problem for the small-scale enthusiast, those producing more frequently or in larger volumes quickly reach capacity.
- Homebrew is not allowed to leave the residence where it was produced unless it is going to a competition or judging event that carries a special events retail license through ABC. This has implications for homebrew club meetings where beer is often shared among members. Bringing your homebrew to a club meeting held at the home of another member is a violation of the law.
- Homebrew cannot be brought onto premises holding other ABC licenses, such as those held by breweries or brewpubs. This inhibits the larger commercial brewing community in supporting homebrewers.
- Homebrewing is prohibited in dry counties so one could argue that the hops are still only partially free in Alabama.
It is important to note that violating any part of the law has potentially serious consequences and can result in the charge of a Class B misdemeanor. Conviction of such a crime in Alabama can result in a six months jail sentence and up to a $3000 fine. Bringing a growler of beer to the local beer club meeting shouldn’t include running the risk of an orange jumpsuit fitting.
Is it time to reconsider the law and push for efforts to amend it to bring it in line with other states? Let’s take a peek at what our fellow Southern neighbors do. In Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee, the statutes follow the federal household production limits i.e., 100 gallons in a household consisting of a single legal adult or 200 gallons in a household consisting of two or more legal adults. The laws in Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee allow for removal of homebrew from the premises of production for personal, unlicensed, non-competition use, although some reasonable volume limits and labeling requirements are imposed. Of our four neighboring states, Mississippi’s laws are the most restrictive in that they only allow homebrew to be transported off-premises to official exhibitions, contests, and competitions and prevent production in dry counties and municipalities. Both restrictions occur in our laws. Examining the laws of our neighboring states makes it clear that our laws are the most prohibitive. Who would have guessed that Mississippi would have more progressive homebrew laws than Alabama!