Friday, October 14, 2011

Thank a homebrewer today!

An important milestone was reached on this day, 14 October, thirty-three years ago, 1978.

When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, lawmakers decided to again permit citizens to produce small amounts of wine and beer at home. However, due to a stenographer's error, the 1933 law failed to mention beer. Thus, even though it became legal to ferment wine at home, homebrewing remained illegal. For the next 44 years, no congressman would find it politically expedient to demand the right of homebrewing for his or her constituents.

That is until January 1977, when Barber Conable, a House of Representatives Republican from New York, would introduce bill HR 2028. Alan Cranston, a Democrat from California, introduced a similar bill in the Senate, along with Senate co-sponsors former NASA astronaut Senator Harrison Schmitt (R) of New Mexico (R), Senator Dale Bumpers (D) of Arkansas, and Senator Mike Gravel (D) of Alaska.

The next year, 1978, these bills would become House Resolution 1337 and Senate Amendment 3534. On 14 October 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed the bill into law.

The law did not actually legalize homebrewing. Rather, it revoked the federal excise tax on homebrew, for up to 100 gallons per adult per year for a total of 200 gallons per household per year. (200 gallons is the approximate equivalent of 89 cases of beer.) Actual legalization would require state-by-state approval, as provided under the 21st Amendment to the Constitution. Only Alabama Aand Mississippi still explicitly forbid the practice. [UPDATE: As of May 2013, homebrewing is now legal in all 50 states.]

Homebrew and 'craft brew' had a strong correlation in those days. In 1978, there was only one 'craft' brewery. In 1981, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company began its operations - founded by two homebrewers - and the craft beer revival had begun in earnest.

Buy a homebrewer a beer today, or better yet, drink one of hers. And, then ... thank her!

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