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Kansas legislature

Kansas Legislature

Home brewers hope to make their hobby legal

February 11, 2013

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— Sean Belden’s home-brewed hobby isn’t entirely legal.

Belden is vice president of the Lawrence Brewers Guild, a group of more than 100 members who make and sample homemade beer, and a judge in home brew beer competitions like the one hosted by the Kansas City Bier Meisters each year.

But under Kansas law, home-brewed beer can be made only for the use of the brewer and family members who live in the same residence.

“If I had some beer I made and drove it over to my brother-in-law’s house, I’m technically breaking the law,” said Belden, 43, of Lawrence.

Representatives from home brewing clubs throughout the state have gotten together to try to lobby the Legislature to loosen those restrictions. Manhattan’s Little Apple Brew Crew, the Greater Topeka Hall of Foamers, the Wichita Homebrewers Organization, the Lawrence Brewers Guild and the KC Bier Meisters, as well as the American Homebrewers Association, provided testimony last week in favor of a bill that would authorize the production and transportation of homemade fermented beverages.

Stephen Cook, the president of the KC Bier Meisters, spoke on behalf of all of the clubs at a hearing on the bill during the House Standing Committee on Federal and State Affairs on Friday.

“I was quite surprised to find out that what we’re doing in our beer club is illegal by Kansas law,” Cook said. “Most of our club members are professional people and certainly all are law-abiding citizens, and we want nothing to do with breaking any laws. This is a hobby.”

Wyldewood Cellars Winery, the Kansas Beer Wholesalers Association and the Kansas Department of Revenue Alcoholic Beverage Control provided testimony in opposition to HB 2223. The commercial beverage opponents had concerns with the way the bill was written.

Rebecca Rice, director of the Kansas Beer Wholesalers Association, said the language needed to be simplified. Dean Reynoldson, the director of the ABC, proposed an amendment to the bill that would not allow for a home brewer to receive compensation for his or her beer.

“The intent of the bill, as originally expressed to ABC, was to allow brewers of homemade fermented beverages to have meetings that would allow them to sample each other’s product, share recipes, have competitions and talk about common experiences,” Reynoldson said. “However, this bill as written goes far beyond that.”

Chairman of the committee and House Majority Leader Rep. Arlen Siegfreid, R-Olathe, suggested the proponents collaborate and change the language of HB 2223. If the group introduces a revised bill quickly, Siegfreid said, the committee could take a second look at it this year.

“As this bill sits, it’s not going anywhere,” Siegfreid said.

Comments

JHawkBeerMaker 1 year, 2 months ago

The purpose of this bill is ease restrictions currently in place on the acceptable use of “home fermented beverages”. This bill will allow home brewers to share the efforts of their hobby with friends and family outside of their home in much the same why a guest brings a bottle of wine to a dinner or six pack of beer to a Jayhawk basketball watch party. It will also allow tastings for competitions providing invaluable feed back to the home brewer from world renowned experts in the art of craft brewing. Finally it will also allow event organizers more flexibility in providing quality craft beer that is such high demand. This year the Kansas Craft Brewers Exposition, held in downtown Lawrence, sold out 700 tickets in around 20 minutes. This bill will allow events such as this to include home brewing demonstrations and tastings. This could lead to increased sales at local small businesses such as JWL Craft Brewing here in Lawrence that sells home brewing supplies.

As an avid home brewer myself I think that this is an important bill. It will benefit the community by allowing us to share our favorite hobby without of fear of breaking the law. The owner of Free State Brewery, Barnyard Brewery in The Pool Room, and the assistant brewer at 23rd Street Brewery all started as home brewers that now make significant impacts to the outstanding culture of Lawrence, KS.

The Kansas Department of Revenue Alcoholic Beverage Control has protested the portion of the bill that would allow home fermented beverages and demonstrations at special events, such as the craft brewers expo, citing that the admission fee would constitute a sale of non-taxed alcohol and potential safety concerns. Under the current law special event or festival organizers are allowed to import into Kansas fermented beverages for these events. The imported beverages are non-taxed and only allowed to be given away as free samples at the event. The organizer must declare the quantity imported and this would constitute an extension of the organizer's Kansas liquor license. For example last year's expo featured Nebraska Brewing Company from Omaha which has never had a license to distribute in Kansas. The current law allowed Free State Brewery to extend their license for the special event as they are the primary organizer. So the admission fee was not declared a sale of Nebraska Brewing Company's non-taxed beer. As far as their argument on safety this is also mute per the same instructions on importing said non-taxed beer. If Nebraska Brewing company gets people sick there is no recourse the state has against them because they are not licensed in Kansas. What they can do is level a fine against Free State's license. I feel that if a Kansas brewery is willing to put their livelihood on the line they should have the option to choose an in state home brewer that lives, works, and pays taxes in Kansas over an out of state brewery who contributes nothing (culture, taxes, tourism) to Kansas.

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bevy 1 year, 2 months ago

The language of the bill needs to be simplified. I'll do that "and I'll use small words, so that you will be sure to understand." Let home brewers share their product, for free, with whomever they choose, so long as they are not breaking other laws concerning the transporting and consumption of alcoholic beverages. (Sorry, some of those words were big. English major's curse. Let me try again.) Let Sean share his beer with his friends, as long as he's not driving drunk or carrying an open jug in his car or truck.

I think for it to go through the Legislature it probably needs a few Elizabethan-era words, such as "forsooth", "prithee" and possibly "theretofore" but you get the idea.

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jack22 1 year, 2 months ago

I don't see any problem with the law as it's already written. If you want members of your brew club to taste your beer just invite them over to your house to do so. Once the beer leaves your house how can the government be sure you're not selling it illegally? I brew my own beer for my own use and have no need to take it outside of my own home. I understand why the government might want to restrict it from leaving the brewer's home. If you want to transport it, share it outside the home, or sell it, you should have to have a commercial license to do so.

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thuja 1 year, 2 months ago

"Too bad our elected officials couldn't just do the reasonable, logical thing."

If everyone could just do this, would there be a need for elected officials?

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Left_of_Lawrence 1 year, 2 months ago

Sounds like a simple, straight forward bill as it is. The representative, House Majority Leader Rep. Arlen Siegfreid, R-Olathe, doesn't sound very reasonable. Looks like deeper pockets wins again. The Kansas Beer Wholesalers Association could no doubt contribute more to an election fund than the Home Brewers. Case closed. Too bad our elected officials couldn't just do the reasonable, logical thing.

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cyburai 1 year, 2 months ago

Hello, I am Sean Belden. I encourage everyone to contact their state rep and voice your opinion on the changes.

This is a minor deal, but the headline is slightly misleading, homebrewing is legal in Kansas. Just not the transport or sharing outside of the home of the brewer, or his/her family.

Here is the bill we submitted, and it will probably change along the way.

http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2013_14/measures/hb2223/

And our facebook group to see what is going on.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/309176992505578/

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riverdrifter 1 year, 2 months ago

I think every home brewer I know ignores this stupid law. As for the ABC, just defund it and start over with it. It is an inbred, useless and outdated government agency.

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woodscolt 1 year, 2 months ago

“If I had some beer I made and drove it over to my brother-in-law’s house, I’m technically breaking the law,” said Belden, 43, of Lawrence.

Hopefully they don't enforce this but I could see if you were pulled over on the way home from your brother in laws house, it might provoke them to throw this law at you. Maybe they can just get it changed.

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Bursting 1 year, 2 months ago

I don't like the ABC or Kansas Beer Wholesalers, leave the homebrewers alone!

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Pastor_Bedtime 1 year, 2 months ago

Nanny-staters and industry lobbyists teaming up against common sense.

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autie 1 year, 2 months ago

This is just backward. Figure out how everybody gets their cut and move it on. Jesse James their not. Arlen, if you are sitting, you are not going anywhere. Logically that follows if you move, you are going somewhere. Hat tip to the brainiac most boring man in the House.

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