Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Washington Homebrewing Legislation

Homebrewing is regulated differently in every state. In some, the regulations are as open as the Federal Statutes. In Utah and Alabama, it remains illegal. (Though legislative efforts are underway in both states.) In Washington, RCW 66.12.010 allows untaxed home production of wine and beer in the home, so long as it is not sold. However, and this is a big however, RCW 66.28.140 has been interpreted to severely limit the transportation of any homebrew produced in the state. The statute reads:
RCW 66.28.140 - Removing family beer or wine from home for exhibition or use at wine tastings or competitions — Conditions.

(1) An adult member of a household may remove family beer or wine from the home for exhibition or use at organized beer or wine tastings or competitions, subject to the following conditions:

(a) The quantity removed by a producer for these purposes is limited to a quantity not exceeding one gallon;

(b) Family beer or wine is not removed for sale or for the use of any person other than the producer. This subparagraph does not preclude any necessary tasting of the beer or wine when the exhibition or beer or wine tasting includes judging the merits of the wine by judges who have been selected by the organization sponsoring the affair; and

(c) When the display contest or judging purpose has been served, any remaining portion of the sample is returned to the family premises from which removed.

(2) As used in this section, "family beer or wine" means beer or wine manufactured in the home for consumption therein, and not for sale.

As I understand it, the state Liquor Control Board has interpreted this statute not just as listing the conditions under which homebrew competitions may take place, but, in conjunction with the "manufactured in any home for consumption therein" language of RCW 66.12.010, as listing the exclusive conditions underwhich homebrew may be legally removed from your house.

Senate Bill 5060 is to go before the Washington State Senate Commerce, Labor and Consumer Protection Committee today, where it will hopefully receive favorable treatment. The bill amends Washington's alcohol regulations to clarify the wording of RCW 66.28.140. It would allow removal of up to 20 gallons of beer and wine produced at home, and amends section 2 to include not only family production, but also homebrew produced for exhibition or use at organized beer or wine tastings, competitions, meetings, or conferences, or use by internal revenue code section 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, and not for sale. Leftover beer from competitions would no longer have to be returned to the brewer (which would be frustrating and near impossible!) This would allow larger homebrew events, such as the AHA Conference or AHA rallies, and smaller club competitions. It would also allow use by non-profits, for example you would be able to donate a keg to a church social, or other non-profit organization event.

However, to me it is still unclear whether you could donate one for a non-profit fundraising event like an auction or raffle. That is, if it's legal to consume your keg at a charity auction, would it be legal to auction the keg itself? Or the brewing of a batch for the winner? This is often a serious grey area in most states.

Presumably the bill will pass the committee and hopefully we'll see it voted on in this session. More info at the Washington Homebrewers Association.

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The Twentyfirst Amendment Meets the 21st Century by Russell Hews Everett is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. The opinions expressed on this page are purely my own, and should not be taken to constitute legal representation or advice.