Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Home Brewers Gain Equality

An important milestone was reached this day twenty-five years ago.

From the Association of Brewers:

On October 14, 1978, President Carter signed House Resolution 1337. Senate Amendment 3534 to that resolution called for equal treatment of home beer brewers and home winemakers. This law allowed for brewing up to 100 gallons per adult or up to 200 gallons per household per year. [200 gallons is the approximate equivalent of 88 cases of beer.] The amendment was proposed by Senator Cranston of California, Senator Schmitt of New Mexico, Senator Bumpers of Arkansas and Senator Gravel of Alaska.

From the repeal of the Volstead Act in 1933 (and of course earlier during Prohibition) until 14 October 1978, it was illegal to produce beer at home, although legal to do so for wine. A stenographer's unintended omission on the 1933 bill produced this insalubrious result.

For nearly 44 years, no congressman would find it politically expedient to demand the right to homebrew for his or her constituents... until January 1977 when Barber Conable, courageous House Republican from New York, would introduce bill HR 2028. Alan Cranston (as stated above) Democrat of California, introduced the bill in the Senate.

This would eventually become HR 1337/SR 3534 in 1978 and be signed into law by President Jimmy Carter. The law did not actually legalize homebrewing: it revoked the federal tax on homebrewing. Legalization would require state-by-state approval, as provided under the 21st U.S. Amendment. Only Alabama and Georgia explicitly still forbid the practice.

In 1981, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company began its operations - founded by two homebrewers - and the craft beer revival had begun in the United States.

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