BEER LAW – Transportation laws restrict Home Brewers from sharing
Free Beer, Please Local homebrewers find state laws a bit prohibitive.
By Laura Onstot
Jerome Seipp loves beer. He’s spent 15 years perfecting his recipes for India Pale Ale and Belgian-style brews, and uses “cheers” as a signoff. But he can’t bring his beer to a wedding or even the barbecue next door, as state law allows homebrewers to transport only one gallon out of their house–and even then it’s only supposed to be for the purposes of tasting in a competition or convention.
But that’s not the worst thing about Washington’s rules concerning homemade beer, explains Seipp, Secretary of the Washington Homebrewers Association (WHA). His organization is part of a national group that hosts an annual homebrewer convention and competition. Participating requires far more than a growler or two of your favorite brews, but since participants can’t transport their home brews around this state, the law prevents the WHA from offering Seattle as a host city for the annual beerfest.
So Seipp and his organization turned to state Sen. Ken Jacobsen (D-Wedgwood) for help. Jacobsen is a big fan of the local beer industry. (Last year he unsuccessfully sponsored a measure to allow dogs in bars. Last week, he reintroduced it.) While he has never tried to brew his own beer, the senator loves drinking local microbrews (he’s a big Manny’s fan), which are licensed and regulated by the state Liquor Control Board. Unlike homebrewers, craft brewers can sell out of their breweries, in stores, and on tap at local watering holes. Hence, if homebrewers wanted to sell their beers, they would have to become craft brewers and apply for the corresponding licenses and permits. But as it is now, they can’t even distribute their creations for free.
Over a couple of brews at the Fiddler’s Inn in Wedgwood, Arlen Harris, Executive Director of the Washington Beer Commission, and WHA members asked Jacobsen to raise the limit to 20 gallons and make it legal to pour glasses for friends and family as well as judges and contest organizers. And last week, Jacobsen introduced Senate Bill 5060 to make exactly those changes. The legislation would still prevent homebrewers from actually selling their beer, but just getting the recipes out there is important for the local craft-brewing industry, Jacobsen says.
“If someone’s got an art or skill, I see no reason why they couldn’t [share their creations in larger quantities],” says Jacobsen. “Home brewers are the nursery for the next crop of microbrewers,” he adds.