Extracting the Facts: Home Brewing and Distilling Rules

Man drinking strong alcohol drink

There’s a little confusion about what people can and cannot do in regards to home brewing and distilling. This isn’t surprising, because although there are a few federal mandates, each state has its own rules about brewing beer, wine or liquor.

What Can I Do at Home?

Brewing your own beer and wine for personal consumption is completely fine. Distilling spirits like whiskey or moonshine is illegal. This includes barrel or still distilling. Depending on the state, it may be perfectly legal to own a still. In certain areas of the country, you are allowed to use it to make essential oils or perfume. In Minnesota, however, even finding an antique still and displaying it in your home is illegal. If you so much as use it to distill water, you’d be facing a felony.

Why is it Illegal to Make My Own Spirits?

First of all, it’s dangerous. Distilling spirits uses alcohol and heat, and theses combinations can cause explosions when not properly managed. Home distillers are also often tempted to create their own equipment instead of purchasing the correct brewing materials, which also lead to improper techniques and potential hazards.

Secondly, taxes. Much more than beer or wine, distilled spirits are taxed at the highest rate of any alcohol. Taxes on alcohol has been a major source of government revenue throughout our history.

What If I Want to Try Distilling?

If you are interested in making your own whiskey or liquors at home, the first step is to become familiar with the laws and regulations related to distilling spirits. Once you understand these laws, apply for the federal distilled spirits permit through the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. You can apply online with no fee.

This takes care of the Federal level, but each state has its own rules, applications –and fees. In Minnesota, there is a collection of forms to complete and have approved before you can distill your own spirits.

Unless you plan on starting your own business making and distributing your own spirits, you’re probably better off making your own wine or beer at home. But fret not – there is an endless combination of flavors, brews, and specialties to try.

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