The Law

We’re not sure when Oregon passed its law addressing homebrewing (ORS 471.403), but it’s clear that many things have happened since then that were not anticipated. The law merely states that the state’s Liquor Control Act “does not apply to the making or keeping of naturally fermented wines and fruit juices or beer in the home, for home consumption and not for sale.”

It makes no mention of homebrew clubs, homebrew competitions, beer judging, fairs or the many other ways we now enjoy our hobby. Other sections of the law are aimed at commercial brewing and restaurants and bars and raise impossible barriers when applied to homebrewing, by making it illegal to serve homebrew at club meetings or to award prizes at competitions, among other things. As far as anyone knows, this was partly an oversight and partly a reflection of homebrewing in its early years.

The phrase “for home consumption” recently has been interpreted to mean just that: Homebrew can be consumed only at the home where it was brewed. This isn’t the fault of the OLCC, and it isn’t the fault of the Department of Justice. The law says what it says. The solution isn’t to get mad at people who are just doing their jobs. The solution is to change the law.

We are currently working with legislators and the OLCC to draft statutory changes that will change the law to:
-Allow homebrew to be transported outside the home
-Allow homebrew to be consumed at club meetings and other events
-Allow homebrew competitions
-Allow prizes to be awarded at competitions

We expect these changes to come before the Legislature soon after the next session begins in January. Please click on the “How To Help” section to see how you can help see that the law is changed.

One point to be aware of is that the federal law that first legalized homebrew contains language that specifically allows the kinds of thing we’re seeking (and that we’ve been doing all along):

§ 25.206   Removal of beer.

Beer made under §25.205 may be removed from the premises where made for personal or family use including use at organized affairs, exhibitions or competitions such as homemaker’s contests, tastings or judging. Beer removed under this section may not be sold or offered for sale.

Unfortunately, when Oregon legalized homebrewing it failed to include this section in the state law. And because Congress specifically allows states to set their own rules on alcohol, federal law does not supercede the state law in this situation.

It is also worth noting that, as far as we and the AHA are aware, Oregon is the only state that does not allow homebrew competitions and does not allow consumption outside the home. Washington is the most recent state to approve legislation to remedy such an oversight, passing a bill in 2009 with no opposition.

Subscribe to RSS feed