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Oregon Senate Passes Bill Attempting To Reinstate Home-Brew Competitions

As some of you may remember, Oregon home-brewers came under fire last summer following a DOJ decision regarding ORS 471.403(1). The law states:

No person shall brew, ferment, distill, blend or rectify any alcoholic liquor unless licensed so to do by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. However, the Liquor Control Act does not apply to the making or keeping of naturally fermented wines and fruit juices or beer in the home, for home consumption and not for sale.

The DOJ interpreted this to mean that once a home-brewer’s product is consumed outside the immediate home, the brewer loses his or her exemptions under the law and must be licensed by the OLCC. The effect of this and the reason for the initial inquiry were questions regarding the legality of home-brew competitions, such as those at the Oregon State Fair. As a result, the 23rd annual Amateur Beer Competition was canceled and Oregon legislators began searching for a way to continue the time-honored tradition of Oregon craft brew judging and consumption.

Enter Floyd Prozanski, the Democrat from Eugene and an avid home-brewer, who, back in August of 2010, stated he was set to propose a change in legislation during the next legislative session to allow for these competitions to occur legally. Introduced by Prozanski on January 10, 2011, and passed by the Oregon Senate on February 22, 2011, Senate Bill 444 seeks to “expand exemption of homemade beer, wine and fermented fruit juice from Liquor Control act,” as well as, “allow licensee to conduct organized judging, tasting, exhibition, contest or competition of unlicensed malt beverages and wine or homemade beer, wine or fermented fruit juice, or related events, at licensed premises subject to Oregon Liquor Control Commission restrictions.”

Prozanski was concerned when he learned of the existing law, prompting his jump into action:

“I was shocked,” Prozanski said about last year’s legal ruling. “My brew partner was extremely concerned because we brew at my house. Under current law, he would be subject to prosecution for transporting his portion home.”

But the bill passed the Senate without debate, and assuming it goes through the House, it should be in place in time for summer and fall home-brew competitions. It seems, for the moment, Prozanski and the approximated 20,000 home-manufacturers in the state are in the clear regarding transporting their goods.

As an aside, here’s some interesting info regarding the law and how it compares to other states:

Gary Glass, director of the American Homebrewers Association, said Oregon has one of the oldest laws in the nation, dating to the Prohibition era.

Even though it’s been a tough time for Oregon home brewers, he suggests it could be worse. Two states, Alabama and Mississippi, have laws that prohibit home brewing altogether.

  1. Adam says:

    It’s about time something was done to take of this. I’m tired of gettin’ thrown in the pokey for simply transporting open, quarter to half full mason jars of my homemade White Lightnin’ in the cup holders of my car! If this bill passes that won’t be a problem, right?

    Fer serious, this is an antiquated law that should’ve been taken care of quite some time ago. Strange that it’s stood for so long in such a beer-centric state.

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