Friday, October 31, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Hey homebrewers, do you know your ABC?
Yeah, those state beer police you never thought you had to worry about when you struck a mash in your back yard.
Turns out the State of New Jersey requires a permit to brew at home, 15 bucks. Son of a &%$@$!!! This is something we stumbled across while poking around on the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s Web site.
Here's the form in all it's glory, but you can also find online here.
First off, do they enforce this? Thankfully, apparently (or hopefully) not. Haven't read about, nor heard of, anyone getting pinched for it. No one we initially asked today knew about it. And we never, ever had one, nor did the nice folks at the Red Bank homebrew supply shop on Monmouth Street ever say “you need this” when they sold us the starter kit 15 years ago. (For the record, we didn’t call ABC about it. Not going to, either. Beyond this blog post, why alert them to an army of homebrewers defying them?) However, Dan Soboti of the Gaslight brewpub in South Orange, which also has a homebrew supply shop, says the permit has been around for quite some time, but shop owners aren't required to check patrons for them. Dan says they keep copies on hand for patrons to deal with on their own. (For the record, Beercrafters in Turnersville was unaware of it.)
We thought it may have been something new (1/08 – January 2008? – appears in small print below the signature line), but then it seems old. Who except the most Internet/graphically challenged person would create a modern application form using ugly-ass Courier New as a typeface? (FYI: Courier New resembles typewriter fonts, that's old school, baby.)
Secondly, what the f*%k?!?! How is it the State of New Jersey can shake you down to use your kitchen and back yard for the same ingredients as bread, just because you’re adding yeast at a different moment? OK, yeah, you intended to make beer from the get-go when you bought 12 pounds of Maris Otter pale malt and a pound of 40 Lovibond crystal, but still, what the f*%k?!?! In your own home? In this country? In a state with Colonial/Revolutionary heritage, where making beer at home is damned near birthright handed down by Founding Fathers? Richard Stockton and William Paterson are probably rolling over in their graves (assuming anyone in Ben Franklin's orbit automatically tipped a tankard).
Thirdly, it gets worse. Read the permit: The beer you make is for consumption only at the address where you made it. So if enforced, that could mean no giving it to friends, taking it to parties, or son of a &%$@$!!! going to Homebrew Day! (The application even asks if you have any ownership stakes in or employment at a brewery, and requires it be named.)
Consider this a tax (voluntary, if unenforced) on homebrewers (and home winemakers, because guess what, there’s a permit for that, too! Son of a &%$@$!!!). Not to mention an intrusion into your home. Or more cynically, it's a backdoor tactic for knowing who's got booze so the Nanny State can ferret out anyone who has the capacity to serve to minors. But we won't go there.
Enforced or not, it needs to go, be stricken from the books. Everyone knows New Jersey is broke, but hitting homebrewers for an apparently one-time 15 bucks ain’t gonna cover the red ink by any stretch of the imagination. Or fund ABC.
New Jersey's commercial beer regulations are known to be overbearing, business-strangling and otherwise screwed up. But what the f*%k?!?!