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Passion for Homebrewing

California State & Federal Homebrewing Laws FAQ

Federal Law

On January 16, 1919, the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, banning the manufacture, sale and transportation of alcohol (Prohibition), including beer made at home. The 21st Amendment repealed Prohibition in 1933, however, the repeal’s legislation mistakenly left out the legalization of home beer making (home wine making was legalized at that time).

On October 14, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed H.R. 1337, which contained an amendment sponsored by Senator Alan Cranston (D-CA) creating an exemption from taxation of beer brewed at home for personal or family use.  This exemption went into effect on February 1, 1979, making homebrewing legal on a federal level in the U.S.

State Laws

Although homebrewing is legal on both the federal and state levels in the U.S., the 21st Amendment predominantly leaves regulation of alcohol to the individual states. Thus each states’ laws regarding homebrewing vary widely. Some states have very specific laws that outline exactly what can and cannot be done with homebrew, while others are vague. Some states limit consumption of homebrew solely to the residence where it was brewed, while others allow for transportation of homebrew to events such as competitions and club meetings.

California

Updated: 2/2015

Status: Permitted, subject to age restriction and amount (gallonage).

Statute

California state statute § 23356.2 allows the manufacture of beer for personal or family use, and not for sale by a person over the age of 21. The aggregate amount of beer with respect to any household shall not exceed 200 gallons or 100 gallons if only one adult resides in such household.

Discussion

California represents one of the most comprehensive state statutes. §23356.2 also provides for the removal of beer manufactured in the home for use in competitions, tastings, or judgings. The statute allows for donation of homebrew to non-profit organizations for use in fundraising events and to homebrewer non-profit organizations for educational events.

Special Provisions

The California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control issued an FAQ on sales of homemade beer or wine by non-profit organizations to clarify the law. The FAQ also issues ABC statements on homemade beer and wine on licensed premises and beer and wine-making demonstrations at homebrew supply shops:

Business and Professions Code section 25607 prohibits licensees and any other person from having upon licensed premises any alcoholic beverages other than those which may be sold at the licensed premises pursuant to the license issued. Since homemade beer and wine may not be sold by permanent licensees, such beer or wine may not be possessed on licensed premises. This prohibition applies whether the license is a manufacturing license (such as beer manufacturer or winegrower) or a retail license (such as a bar or restaurant).

The law provides that beer or wine may only be produced without a license in a “household” for “personal or family” use. Beer or wine produced at a “home brew” supply store or any other similar location for any purpose, including demonstration, would not comply with this provision.

State Alcohol Beverage Control Agency

Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control

  • 3927 Lennane Drive, Suite 100
  • Sacramento, CA 95834
  • Phone: 916.419.2500

Applicable Statutory Material

  • 23006. Beer
  • “Beer” means any alcoholic beverage obtained by the fermentation of any infusion or decoction of barley, malt, hops, or any other similar product, or any combination thereof in water, and includes ale, porter, brown, stout, lager beer, small beer, and strong beer, but does not include sake, known as Japanese rice wine. Beer aged in an empty wooden barrel previously used to contain wine or distilled spirits shall be defined exclusively as “beer” and shall not be considered a dilution or mixture of any other alcoholic beverage.
  • 23006. Beer