Homebrew Legalization Day, United States, 14 October

I generally stay far away from politics, but today is an exception. Forty-four years ago today President James (Jimmy) Earl Carter Jr. signed the Federal Transportation Bill H.R. 1337. A transportation bill may seem like a strange thing for a beer enthusiast to be happy about, but there was an amendment in that bill that changed prohibition era laws and kicked off the current craft beer movement in the US. Tucked into that transportation bill there was the Amendment Number 3534, or Beer for Personal or Family Use. 1978.

“(c) BEER FOR PERSONAL OR FAMILY USE.—Subject to regulations prescribed by the Secretary, any adult may, without payment or tax, produce beer for personal or family use and not for sale. The aggregate amount of beer exempt from tax under this subsection with respect to any household shall not exceed—1. 200 gallons per calendar year if there are 2 or more adults in such household, or 2. 100 gallons per calendar year if there is only one adult in such household. For purposes of this subsection, the term ‘adult’ means an individual who has attained 18 years of age.”

Federal Transportation Bill H.R. 1337, Amendment Number 3534, Beer for Personal or Family Use, 1978

Brewing beer was common in early American homes and continued legally up until the early 1900s. With the passing of the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution brewing beer at home as well as commercial brewing and distillation were outlawed in America. When the 18th Amendment was finally overturned by the 21st Amendment in 1933 an oversight left off the legalization of home brewing. It seems crazy now but a similar free standing bill to legalize home brewing beer and wine failed to pass congress the year before in 1977. In 1978 Senator Senator Alan Cranston of California proposed this amendment and thankfully for home brewers across the country it was passed and signed into law.

Within a few short years several organizations were started that continue to influence craft beer. Charlie Papazian created the American Homebrewers Association in 1979. Along with his book written in 1984 The Complete Joy of Homebrewing he has inspired countless brewers in the states. Like many home brewers this was the first book I purchased on brewing beer. In 1985 the non-profit Beer Judge Certification Program was started. This organization educates and trains members to judge beers and has created a comprehensive list of style descriptions. As Americans began to learn to brew beer at home many of them expanded to eventually open their own comercial breweries.

Although the bill was signed when I was only a few months old my history of home brewing goes back to 2007 when I lived down the street from O’Shea Brew Co. They were mostly a bottle shop, but also sold prepackaged home brewing kits. My parents have religiously gotten us a birthday gift since we were born, regardless of how old we are. I remember my mother beging that I ask for anything else other than a home brew kit. This little kit started a long history of me and beer.

One of the things I enjoy most about homebrewing is creating unique beers that commercial breweries won’t or can’t make. The homebrew I am enjoying today is just that. The beer is a S’more Porter made with roasted marshmallows, gram crackers, and coca powder. If anyone would like the recipe let me know in the comments. It’s still tasty after four months.

I recommend you celebrate this day by raising a glass to President Carter and the late Senator Cranston. Two men who helped give America a more flavorful beer. How ever you choose to celebrate remember to “Relax, Don’t Worry, Have a Home Brew”.

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