Most home brewers know the limits on what they can brew for their own consumption – 100 gallons per calendar year if there is one adult in the household and 200 gallons of beer if there are two or more adults residing in the household. Seems like a simple rule, but it is important to know who the federal government deems to be an “adult.” First, don’t assume you can produce 200 gallons if the only other adult in your household is an 18, 19, or 20 year old. While the federal government says that a person counts as an adult under this rule if he or she is at least 18, the rule is limited where the minimum age for the sale of beer is higher. The reality is that virtually every state sets the age of 21 as the minimum age at which an individual may purchase beer. This should be considered when accounting for the total allowance for your household.
The Brewers Association has declared that the craft brewing world is growing so fast that it is undergoing a revolution. The Craft Brewers Conference held in Washington, D.C. in just a few days, starting March 26, 2013, is a good way to see how the industry is evolving. With thousands in attendance, there will be no doubt that many a home brewer will be looking to take information back home to share with local organizations that hold contests, competitions, tastings, and exhibitions that make everyone’s local beer world a better place.
Some home brewers have shared concern about local activities and whether or not specific activities violate the personal consumption rule. A key component of avoiding a violation of the rule is that the personal production never be sold. This part of the rule is pretty straightforward. With an interest in sharing their craft, some home brewers participate in events where their beer may be judged or offered for tastings. Again, there is no problem with this type of activity.
There are even instances of home brewers or others coming together to share their knowledge and provide certain types of assistance that do not call for a brewery license. These operations, known as “brew-on-premises” operations are situations where a business or individual provides space and equipment to the public to brew and bottle their own beer. It is very important to note that State and local law could affect one’s ability to operate a BOP, so even if your activities fall within these listed actions, you still need to check your local rules.
According to the federal government, BOP’s, and their employees, may furnish space, brewing equipment, ingredients, and advice or expertise about brewing. Unfermented wort may be furnished to the customers of a BOP. Further, it is ok for the BOP to assist with movement of beer containers, provide cleaning and maintenance of equipment, prepare and provide an environment that is climate and temperature controlled and assist with disposal of spent grains or waste.
While the federal government is ok with a non-brewery permit holder providing the above advice, the government believes that the BOP crosses the line and must obtain a permit if its employees assist with production, storage or packing of beer by fermenting mash, adding sugar or other ingredients to the beer, filtering or bottling the beer or providing physical assistance in the production, tank transfer, racking, or kegging of the beer. Further, the BOP would need a license if it provided non-tax paid beer to customers or prospective customers for sampling.
These rules create a fine line between operating as a brew-on-premises operation and a brewery. The services of a BOP may very well be the objective of an advanced group of home brewers or it may be a step just before a fully operational brewery. Either way, it is possible to structure the operation to make sure that the expectation of the government relating to brewery operations and excise tax requirements are followed and the craft of brewing is an enjoyable and educational experience for all involved.