You can brew your own beer at home, and you can ferment your own wine at home, but if you try to distill your own spirits at home, you’re asking for trouble from the rev’nooers.
The movement to legalize marijuana dominates headlines these days, but another group is laboring in relative obscurity to legalize its chosen intoxicant: homemade liquor.
The newly formed Hobby Distillers Association, based in Tarrant County, aims to change a federal law that prevents anyone from distilling spirits in the home — even if you drink it all yourself and don’t sell a drop.
“A lot of people don’t realize this is illegal,” said Rick Morris, owner of Brewhaus, a Keller company that manufactures and distributes small-scale stills and related supplies to make liquor. “It’s an eye-opener for them.”
Morris, the driving force behind the new association, has scraped up the funds to hire a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm to convince Congress that hobby distilling should be put on the same legal basis as brewing beer and making wine at home.
“The beer and wine hobbyists are a little more organized,” said Paul Kanitra, president of lobbyit.com, which now represents the Hobby Distillers Association. “The hobby distillers are finally saying enough is enough.”
Federal law allows a hobbyist to brew up to 100 gallons of beer a year without getting a license or paying taxes. The same holds true for wine makers.
But distilling any amount of spirits — whiskey, gin, vodka, absinthe — could bring legal problems with the IRS and its subsidiary agency, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
Federal regulators say it’s a matter of public health and safety: It’s easy, they say, to inadvertently produce homemade liquor adulterated with poisonous chemicals or start a fire with open flames used to heat a still.
Home distillers say those fears are overblown — that their hobby is safe and harms no one.
Kanitra said he and his lobby team hope to find a member of thee U.S. House or Senate to sponsor a bill and get it passed before the end of the year.
“We have to educate members of Congress, and once we do that, they will see there is no reason to treat hobby distillers so differently,” Kanitra said.
It never ceases to amaze me how many archaic Prohibition-era laws are still on the books, being enforced. I see no reason why distilling at home should be treated any differently than home brewing or home fermenting. If there are safety concerns, then put regulations on the equipment. At least craft distillers have more freedom to operate in Texas thanks to a series of bills passed last year that were sponsored by Senator and Lt. Governor candidate Leticia Van de Putte. This one’s a matter for Congress, and they’re too busy repealing Obamacare and not passing immigration reform to pay attention to something like this. Nevertheless, it would be nice if at least one member of Congress agreed to sponsor a bill to legalize home distilling. Who wants to lead on this issue?