President Obama, who was also a Senator from Illinois, likes beer. He also likes homebrewing.
Why then does Illinois have some of the most backward home brew laws in the country. Not the worst, but among the worst.
It is legal to make your own beer in Illinois, unlike a few other states, but that is where the sanity ends.
If you want to serve your homemade beer to anyone other than your friends or family, you will be running afoul of the law. The law states that you can only consume homemade beer, wine, cider or spirits with the maker, family and guests. That means you can't even giveaway alcohol at beer festivals or as part of a club. In fact, the Illinois Liquor Commission is cracking down on homebrewers who are giving away samples at festivals.
An inquiry by a homebrew club that wanted to do a fundraiser, got State Rep. Keith Farnham (D-Elgin) to sponsor a bill that would allow home-brewed beers to be "distributed" when used for exhibitions, demonstrations, judging or sampling. The legislation was modeled after Wisconsin law that was similar.
3 Tier Alcohol Laws
The main problems with all these laws stem from the repeal of prohibition which delegates laws to the states, but also requires a 3 tier system. This was supposed to stop monopoly power and encourage more beer and other alcohol to be distributed. In fact, the opposite has happened.
The three tiers refer to manufacture, distribution and sale. In general, a company can't own all three of the tiers and in states like Nevada, can only own one tier. This effectively makes distributors very powerful and the beer distributors lobby in Washington DC is in the top five lobbying groups to politicians. They don't want home brew beer or any alcohol they can't control (i.e. make a middleman profit on), and that is the crux of these laws.
Does your state have similar rules regarding homebrew? Leave a comment below.