Rules for Homebrewers and Moonshine Makers

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on November 13, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Home brewing is an ancient practice that's the new cool thing to do. At its simplest you can start with just a cook pot and a stove. Yet, for serious brewers -- and there are many -- it can get complex, an adult chemistry project.

As all of that suggests, it is legal to make alcohol at home. However, there limits on what types can be concocted. And no, you can't turn your basement into a speakeasy.

Don't Stop the Hops

Homebrewing was federally legalized in 1978 for the first time since Prohibition made it illegal in 1919. According to the Brewers Association, since 2013, all 50 states have permitted home brewing beer.

Regulation of alcohol is mostly left to states. But there are still important federal and local laws too. They apply to making and serving alcohol.

Moonshine Makers Be Warned

Home brewed beer requires no license but making moonshine and liquor without one will get you in trouble with the feds and state authorities. There may also be local laws to look up before you get going.

A company that makes parts for big distillers, Clawhammer Supply, warns, "Unless the thought of digging ditches with chains around your ankles is appealing," prospective moonshine makers must consider all applicable laws.

You do need a federal license to make liquor. There are two types, only one of which you are likely to be granted, according to the company blog. Big distillers get a Federal Distilled Spirits Permit. Home moonshine and spirits fans should instead seek a Fuel Alcohol Permit.

The problem with this permit, however, is that it is not for drinking alcohol. As such, using it to make moonshine for human consumption is still illegal.

The company writes, "We've never heard of anyone being denied the permit and have never heard of anyone even being checked on. Just be advised that the feds will expect that you're putting alcohol in your lawnmower and not drinking it." The license is free.

Trouble Brewing?

If you do find yourself in trouble for your experiments making moonshine ... or because you sold your artisanal ales out of your basement speakeasy and someone was injured, talk to a lawyer.

In all seriousness, there are many criminal charges associated with alcohol -- not just making it, but also consuming it. Get help if you are accused.

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