Monday, August 9, 2010

Homebrew rules that suck

What do New Jersey and Oregon have in common regarding homebrewing?

Laws that essentially say you can't take your homemade beer to your club meeting, friends' homes, etc. That's because your beer creations are supposed to be consumed only at the premises where they were brewed.

Sucks, doesn't it? (And yeah, we've groused about this before.)

In the case of Oregon, a hop-producing state with a reputation for good craft beer, it really does: The annual state fair's homebrew competition – a 22-year tradition – got iced this summer because someone discovered the rule. (Read more here.)

New Jersey's state fair homebrew contest was held July 31st as planned, like it was last year and years before that. No hitches. The same goes for Big Brew Homebrew Day observances that unite homebrewers in a day of communal brewing at an expressed location (like the backlot of a homebrew supply shop,, club member's home, or even a brewpub parking lot). That's most likely because in New Jersey's case, the permit limitation apparently goes unenforced, as does the obligation of obtaining the $15 permit itself.

Some folks, however, do bow to the requirement and plunk down their $15; others don't, for a number of reasons, including the fact they don't know the regulation exists. Still others are more defiant, arguing the state has no business telling them what they can do with some hops and the same ingredients that go into making bread, let alone charge them 15 bucks to enjoy a hobby that is essentially cooking.

While it hasn't happened, it's not far-fetched to think that New Jersey's regulators wouldn't ever take a harder line regarding homebrewers. You certainly hope that doesn't happen.

Yet, until the rules are changed – ideally by eliminating the permit completely or at a minimum dumping the language about where the beer may be consumed – Garden State h0mebrewers risk running afoul of the rules.

Just what that means is anyone's guess. But who really wants to find out?

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