LEGALESE — Home Brew Beer

Lots of folks these days brew their own beer or wine or hard cider as a hobby.  There are stores devoted to the equipment needed to do so, and home brew festivals devoted to people sharing their creations.  The question is this: legally speaking, how are these people brewing alcoholic beverages in their homes different from moonshiners or illegal purveyors of bathtub gin?

There are specific laws allowing these home brew activities.  O.C.G.A. 3-5-4 says that if you have one person of legal drinking age living in the house, then you can brew 100 gallons of ‘malt beverages’ in your private residence.  If there is more than one person of legal drinking age, you can brew 200 gallons.  Provided, however, no more than 50 gallons can be produced in a 90 day period.

For the most part, you have to drink this home brewed beer at home, and only people of the legal drinking age can drink it.  However, you can bring no more than 25 gallons of home brewed beer to special home brew events provided that it is securely sealed during transport, and labeled with the name of the producer and the address at which it was produced, and the name and address of the home brew event.

Home brew special events have to be permitted, and can be issued for contests, tastings, and judgings.  If the local jurisdiction allows it, there has to be a resolution or ordinance, and the permit shall cost $50.00 and you can’t have more than 6 events per year.

Sorry, but you can’t sell your home brew, no matter how good it is, and no matter how much someone offers you.

You can also make your own wine.  A “head of household” may make 200 gallons of wine in a calendar year to be consumed within his own household without any requirement to be licensed or taxed.  When I first read this, I thought, “why only the head of the household?  Why not the 22 year old son on summer break from college?  The second paragraph of O.C.G.A. 3-6-3 says that “[f]or purposes of this code section, a single individual who is not a dependent of another person for purposes of Georgia income taxation shall be considered a head of a household.”  This still doesn’t answer the question why the 22 year old dependent on summer break can’t make wine, and it begs a number of questions about whether the husband or wife is the “head of household,”  but my guess is also that if you brew five gallons of wine a year that Elliot Ness’s progeny aren’t going to come busting into your house with axes to break up your casks.

FYI, malt beverages exceeding the legal amount are considered ‘contraband,’ which means they can be seized.  It also means that the equipment (and potentially the home) used to brew it could possibly be subject to forfeiture.  Of course, 200 gallons of beer is an awful lot of beer, even over the course of a year, so unless you really have an operation of some sort, I wouldn’t worry about it too much.  If you made 200 gallons of beer a year for personal consumption, you wouldn’t have the time left over to drink 200 gallons of beer, or the sobriety to brew it properly.

This article was written by a lawyer, but should not be considered legal advice in any way, shape, or form.  It is written for general (and generally vague) informational purposes only.  In order to properly evaluate your case, a lawyer must examine all the facts and circumstances that are particular and personal to your situation.  I have not done that here


About Lori Duff 352 Articles
Lori is the author of the bestselling collection of humor essays, "Mismatched Shoes and Upside Down Pizza" currently available exclusively on Amazon. In order to finance her writing habit, she is a practicing lawyer with Jones & Duff, LLC. She is married to Mike Duff, who is a retired DeKalb County Public Safety Officer, and has two amazing children who make cameo embarrassing appearances in her blog posts and who attend Walton County Public Schools. Her legal column, "Legalese", is meant to de-mystify and humanize the Court system. When asked about her writing, Lori says, "Life is too short not to laugh at every available opportunity. My goal is to make myself laugh -- and hopefully you will laugh along with me."

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