Can I Sell Homebrew? Can I Make Pro Brew at Home?

Can you sell your homebrew? Can you make pro brew at home? In this series, we dive into the details of the legal aspects of brewing at a residence.
Can you sell your homebrew? Can you make pro brew at home? In this series, we dive into the details of the legal aspects of brewing at a residence.

A special post on homebrewing, in honor of all our friends at Homebrew Con 2016 (it’ll always be NHC to me!) who are out there kicking tires on new gear while enjoying the camaraderie and great array of homebrew seminars (and no shortage of homebrew…) out in Baltimore right now. Another homebrew-related post coming tomorrow.

So, we know you can homebrew. But can you ever sell your homebrew? In other words, can you brew beer at “home” and sell it? Could you run a bona fide brewery business out of your home; make pro brew in your garage? Let’s unpack these common questions, and we’ll do it in two parts.

Homebrewing is legal in all fifty states (thankfully, for our friends in the South, Alabama finally came around!). Federal regulations allow adults to brew up to 100 gallons of homebrew a year if living alone, and up to 200 gallons of homebrew per year for a household. As you might imagine, it’s pretty hard to police that figure, but for this risk-averse attorney, that means my 3.5G weekly batches cleanly put me under that household threshold (for 200G/year, it comes out to about 3.8G/week). Whew.

And for anyone who has thought about going pro, costs are often daunting. Many wonder, could I produce beer at my home somehow, and turn around and sell it? That would mean I could avoid spendy commercial leases, and use the space and gear I’ve got. We’re here to say maybe, and with a lot of caveats; as we don’t represent our dear readers, you should always seek an opinion of counsel in your home state. That said, we have successfully helped people open commercial beverage businesses at their residences. If you’re in the right locality, with the right separations at your premises, it may well be possible. Note, though, that commercially brewing at home as a licensed producer is one thing. That’s sanctioned “Pro Brew” (more on that next time). However, selling “homebrew” without a permit is another, and that’s always a no-no. Here are the issues at play.

First and foremost, absent federal licensure (and applicable state/local permits), you cannot sell alcohol made anywhere. Not no way, not no how.

If you’re interested in opening a commercial brewery at your home, or licensing an outbuilding as a brewery, stay tuned for our next post. If you’re curious about other aspects of homebrew, read on for frequently-asked homebrew questions.

I’m a pro brewer in planning, can I charge for homebrew at an event?

We get asked a lot about charging admission for an event hosted by a brewery in planning. Typically, the would-be brewer wants to woo investors and build up a fanbase before going live. At these events, they want to serve or sell their homemade wares. Keep in mind that the more you edge closer to money and homebrew, the more you’re walking that fine line. Homebrew simply cannot be sold, so a monetary transaction for the beer is not possible. And, in many states, including Washington, to “sell” has a particularly broad definition (including even bartering and exchanging it which may be difficult to enforce but is nonetheless the law). Homebrewers would be well-advised to seek experienced local counsel before serving homebrew anywhere beyond the home or at a friend’s house. Indeed, even pouring at festivals may require notice to applicable regulators.

Can I bring my homebrew to a wedding?

Typically, homebrew is okay at private events. The places where friends, family, and loved ones gather. Just as no one regulates the service of homebrew at your house party, these sorts of events tend to fall in this category. Technically, the federal language refers to homebrew as to be for “personal or family use and not for sale.” Thus, of course, again the standard no-sales caveat applies again. If someone wants to run a business of making custom beer for private events, we’re talking about a licensed business, and not a homebrew operation. Unlike other industries, such as baking or candy-making which can often be conducted right out of the kitchen with minimal permitting, brewing alcohol for commercial purposes is highly regulated. It needs a permit, taxes must be paid on production and, as we’ll touch on tomorrow, it may or may not be possible at a residence.

I’m 18, can I make homebrew….?

According to federal regulations, any adult may produce homebrew. Further, federal regulations clarify that an adult is someone aged eighteen or older. Of course, drinking age laws still apply. Moreover, states can also restrict production of homebrew to those older than 21. But, if your state allows 18+ production, a Mr. Beer Kit for high school graduation is a viable gift idea for your favorite niece or nephew, although probably frowned upon by mom and dad.

Are the gallon limits for beer only, or does wine count?

Cheers to diversifying your homebrewing interests. If you’re seeking a compliant homebrew path, but the 100G/200G homebrewing limitations aren’t enough to keep the whistle wet, you might consider making wine (which includes wine, cider, and mead). Federal regulations give you an additional 100G individually/200G household allotment for winemaking. Brew on.

What about home distilling, can I do that?

Not legally, no way. Home distilling is illegal. Over cocktails, I’ve pontificated about what a licensing process for this might look like, maybe involving permitting and training (and, of course, a healthy fee to the applicable regulators for the classes and annual right to do so). It hasn’t happened yet (and I hope somewhere, someday, someone is reading this and the law has changed). But, take note! At the time of writing, there’s activity in the House and Senate that may help make a path possible. This effort is thanks to the efforts of the Hobby Distiller’s Association.

We’ll add other Homebrew Law FAQs as they come to us.

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Is The Sale of Home Brew “Shares” Illegal? Most Likely

Bottle your home brew, but don't offer it for a price.

Wow! That was my reaction to reading a recent marketing piece in a farm share newsletter. Apparently, a New York farm share has decided to allow a home brewer to offer “shares” of his home brewing bounty to members of the farm share. While this glows of an illegal sale by an unlicensed brewer, lets discuss the specifics.



First of all, if you are unfamiliar with farm share, let me indulge you. A farm share is similar to a co op. Members purchase a “share” of the farm’s crop with a subscription fee. The members are then entitled to receive a box of produce on a given interval (weekly, monthly, etc.). The fee for the share is typically derived from the costs of production, so that the farmers can be paid for their labor.


One particular farm share in New York City (i’ll keep that quiet), decided to allow a member to offer its home brew as a produce box “add on” service. Apparently, for $44, you get four deliveries of six-pack bottles. The beer is described below:




One of our long-term XXXX members and talented beer maker is offering a XXXX Homebrew Share this year. Buy a share and receive craft beer home-brewed right here in XXXX. Members of the Homebrew Share receive 4 deliveries. Each homebrew share consists of either a six-pack of 12 oz. bottles or three 22-oz bottles. You will pick-up your homebrew shares at your designated XXXX pick-up location every 3 weeks starting June 29th / July 2nd.


The homebrew shares costs $44. That works out to $11 per six-pack – one dollar more than a six-pack of Coronas.


What kind of beer will be in the homebrew share? You will drink unique beer, made from original recipes. Beer that you cannot get anywhere else. All of our beer is bottle-conditioned and brewed in small batches, with the best ingredients, and using herbs and spices that make our beers unique and delicious. Today, we started the first beer for our shareholders – a chocolate pink peppercorn ale! Some of our past homebrews include: a caramel brown ale, a honey I.P.A., a sour-cherry stout, a chocolate-and-jalapeno dark ale, an oolong-and-orange summer ale, and a toasted-grain-and-maple-syrup ale. We have some new exciting recipes that we’ve been crafting over the past few months, and can’t wait to brew them for you!


Sounds amazing, right?! Well, its almost assuredly illegal.


The general rule is that most states allow you to produce beer for your own consumption – not for sale. Many states also allow you to share that home brew with your friends and others at home brew competitions.


But in New York there is no express provision that allows production of home brew. The law specifically provides a prohibition against the sale of beer, but no permission for home brewed beer. Washington, for example, has a specific provision that enables home brewing.


Under New York statute, Chapter 3-B, Article 8, § 100 provides that no person shall “manufacture for sale or sell at wholesale or retail any alcoholic beverage within the state without obtaining the appropriate license therefor required by this chapter.” The statute later defines “beer”  as any “fermented beverages of any name or description manufactured from malt, wholly or in part, or from any substitute therefor.” At best, this vaguely permits home brewing for personal consumption, by not regulating it.


The question is whether the home brew share, discussed above, falls within the purview of this statute. I feel that it clearly does.


It is clear that these people are purchasing the beer and have no involvement in the brewing process. In fact, they do not know what is being brewed. Secondly, the brewer would need to prove that he derives no gain from these shares – meaning that he cannot even indulge in a free bottle. Finally, he is marketing the product by advertising publicly.


Even the most charged legal mind would have an immensely difficult time trying to convince a liquor control agency that this is not a sale. Even then, would it be worth it? The home brewer would likely have to turn over all records related to costs to ensure that he derives no gain. I believe that he would also have to show that the “share” members have some input and control over the brewing process, illustrating that they are also “brewing” with him. Of course, it is commonplace to brew collaboratively with others (I do it every time). But, this is above and beyond what the law already only tacitly permits.


While a novel idea, I believe that this will probably be shut down soon. 1000s of brewers across these great states have to go through the TTB and state procedures to sell their booze. So too, will this guy.




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