Sunday, July 17, 2011

Legal mumbo jumbo

I am in the process of moving and the time table for brewing looks to be September. So I have some time to share the ins-and-outs of the laws relating to homebrewing in New Hampshire.

In 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed into law H.R. 1337, which amended section 5053(e) of the Internal Revenue Code, providing a limited tax exemption for no more than 200 gallons of beer produced “for personal and family use and not for sale.” (Information from Pint of Reference: A Guide To The Federal Homebrewing Exemption Statute

New Hampshire is one of 18 "alcohol control states" and stringently regulates alcoholic beverages. For example,  RSA 178:1, makes it a Class B felony to:
...manufacture for sale, or sell in any method or manner, directly or indirectly, or distribute by selling, transferring, giving, or delivering to another, or leaving, bartering, or exchanging with another, or offering or agreeing to do the same, in any method or manner, directly or indirectly, or keep for sale any liquor or beverage without first registering to do business with the secretary of state and obtaining a license for such activity under the provisions of this title.
Provided you meet the criteria outlined within the statute, NH RSA 175:5-b Production of Beer for Personal or Family Use, gives a specific exemption from the laws in  NH RSA Title XIII: Alcoholic Beverages as they relate to said criteria.  That's right, if RSA 175:5-b didn't exist you could be charged with a Class B felony (1-7 years in prison and/or $4,000 fine) for brewing your own beer at home and giving some to other members of your family.

Paragraphs I & II of the Homebrewing statute deals with the production of homebrewing, and Paragraph III deals with home brew that is removed from the brewing premise. The following criteria in Paragraph I has to be achieved for Title XIII exemption:
  • Brewer(s) must be 21 years of age or older 
  • You can only brew "beer" (not defined by the law)
  • The beer must be for "personal or family use"
  • The beer is not "offered for sale or sold"
  • Homebrewing production in one calendar year does not exceed 100 gallons (one brewer) or 200 gallons (2+ brewers) per household
Assuming the maximum production of beer (200 gal), the Homebrewing Law does limit the household production of beer to 2133 twelve oz bottles/year or a six-pack of 12oz beers/day. These production limits mimic the federal tax exemption in section 5053(e).

Paragraph II makes it "unlawful for any person to produce beer for personal or family use in excess of the amounts permitted in paragraph I or to offer for sale or sell such beer."
According to Paragraph III, beer produced in accordance with the Paragraph I criteria:
...may be removed from the premises where made for personal or family use for use at organized home brewing meetings, exhibitions, or competitions, such as homebrewer's contests, tastings, or judgings, and for personal off-premises use. Beer used under this paragraph shall not be sold or offered for sale.
Which means if you made your beer in accordance with the Paragraph I criteria, you can remove it from the home and drink it other locations, have "organized" "exhibitions" of your beer such as tastings, contests and other such competitions.

If you want to homebrew in the Granite State, don't even think of selling or offering your beer for sale. Unless you want the chance that some law enforcement officer decides to reward your efforts with a Felony charge. While "sale" in the Homebrewing law isn't the same language of RSA 178:1, I wouldn't even try and exchange a beer for anything else, except a smile and/or kind words. Just look at what "criminal offense" the State's liquor investigators charge people with; trading beer for anything (including beer) wouldn't be a deviation from the norm.

So look forward to some organized homebrew tastings from yours truly, coming to a locality near you in the Granite State! Now I just need to look into whether or not Massachusetts or Vermont frown on the importation of home-brewed beer; the subject of a future blog post. Feel free to leave comments, questions or friendly debate on my legal analysis, or if you know the ins-and-outs of Mass. or Vermont laws relating to homebrewing.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bottles up!

The quest for empty bottles has begun! I couldn't justify buying empty glass bottles, so I decided to start storing them. The first series of empty bottles came from a 12-pack of Magic Hat Wacko Summer, which is a decient fruity summer brew. Now I just need to decide on the next pack to increase the bottle count. Only about four more 12-packs to go! I'm partial to craft brews, any suggestions/favorites?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Getting started!

My journey into homebrewing is about to kick into gear within the next month or two. Georgie (my wife) and I are moving into a condo with a basement that will provide an optimal environment for the preparation and fermentation process.

I have decided to begin with a Northern Brewer starter kit to ease myself into brewing, most likely the Deluxe Beer Starter Kit with glass carboys.  I already have a brewkettle similar to the Tramontina Prima Stainless Steel Tri-Ply Stock Pot. Maybe at some point I will upgrade to a Megapot, which provides for a built-in thermometer, a false bottom and spout for easy draining. In addition to the starter kit, I will also have to get forty-eight to fifty-six 12 oz. empty brown glass bottles and an extract ale recipe kit.

So far the entire initial purchase is looking to be in the neighborhood of $200. Thankfully I just had a birthday and will use some funds given to me to subsidize the initial investment.  In the near future I am looking to get a wort chiller (will likely make my own) and design labels for my beers. Any graphic artists out there who would like the opportunity to design the 1st session of beer labels, please contact me and you will be sufficiently rewarded!

Stay tuned for the next chapter in my brewing experience!