Legality of Home Brewing in North Carolina

Home brewing is federally legal.  But there are some rules and regulations in affect.  Below is a brief history of the federal laws about home brewing, as well as the regulations specific to the state of North Carolina.

The 18th Amendment, which enacted prohibition in the US, made home brewing illegal.  However, prohibition was repealed by the 21st amendment.  BUT, there was one major oversight in this repeal…they forgot to legalize home beer making (home wine making was legalized).

In 1978, Jimmy Carter made home brewing federally legal for the first time since prohibition began in 1919.

Because the 21st amendment left the regulation of alcohol mostly up to the individual states, home brewing was now federally legal, but could still be illegal in certain states.  North Carolina didn’t even end prohibition as a state until nearly two years after the end of the federal prohibition!

In some states (Alabama and Mississippi), it is still illegal to home brew, however North Carolina Chapter 18B, Article 3, §18B-306 permits an individual to make, possess, and transport native wines and malt beverages for his own use and for the use of his family and guests.

Here it is in full:

§ 18B-306 Making wines and malt beverages for private use.

An individual may make, possess, and transport native wines and malt beverages for his own use and for the use of his family and guests. Native wines shall be made principally from honey, grapes, or other fruit or grain grown in this State, or from wine kits containing honey, grapes, or other fruit or grain concentrates, and shall have only that alcoholic content produced by natural fermentation. Malt beverages may be made by use of malt beverage kits containing grain extracts or concentrates. Wine kits and malt beverage kits may be sold in this State. No ABC permit is required to make beverages pursuant to this section.

Basically, this says you can legally make your own beer and wine at home and it can contain alcohol as long as it is produced through natural fermentation (in other words, moon shining and making your own liquor is still illegal).

If you are interested in further information about the federal and state legality of home brewing, there are some great talking points on the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) website.

20 Comments

Jesse

I would add the caveat that a home brewer can only brew a certain volume of beer per anum as well. I forget the amount, but I believe it is more than most home brewers could do in a span of two years. I can’t clearly recollect, but I think think the volume figure is >150 gallons…

Chris

Yeah, I left that out for a couple of reasons: 1) Almost no homebrewer ever brews that much and 2) even if they did, no one could prove it because it would all be consumed before they realized. Technically it is a law, but I don’t think anyone has ever been accused or convicted of breaking it.

zy1125

Does 18B-308 leave room for all-grain brewing? What about making homebrew from extract with my own recipe (not from a kit)?

Chris

Absolutely! When it says “An individual may make…malt beverages for his own use,” that means you can make beer from malt. It does not have to be malt extract. It can be from your own malted grains. The kit part is confusing (who would have guessed, politicians worded something in a confusing manner), but it is just legalizing the sale of kits in the state and saying that it is ok to make beer using a kit. You’re good to go with your own recipes or all grain.

Scott Hackett

Great article! Another thing that’s important to point out is the homebrew is, under no circumstances, allowed to be sold, even if it falls under the “among family and guests” crowd. I have had a bunch of people ask, “can I buy some more from you?” and the answer always has to be no. That doesn’t mean that you can’t encourage people to chip in money for the next batch you brew, though…

Chris

For sure. That is definitely one of the big ones! I usually barter with people – you buy the beer next time we’re at the bar, I toss you some home brew. But I typically have enough on tap that I just enjoy giving it away! However, if you’re only brewing 5 gallon batches once every month or two, then it becomes much more of a precious commodity!

That’s why every home brewer dreams of opening up a brewery one day…heck, we can all dream can’t we!?

zy1125

You know, I wasn’t going to agree with you until I re-read it. The key is the use of ‘may’. You “shall” meaning “must” use specific ingredients made in-state for wine, but ‘may’ use extract for beer.

Chris

see what I mean – politicians! They have to make it as confusing as possible!

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Chuck

I am trying to learn how to make wine from native NC/Southern fruits….Muscadine, Scuppernong, Peach, and Blackberry. This is my fourth season and I am getting better (probably more dangerous). I was curious about the maximum one could make. Being there are so many varieties of the native grapes I was worried that I might go over, but the volume you quoted is a lot more than I could do in one season. When asked if they could purchase some I just say no, it is a gift. I enjoy making it and I am glad my friends appreciate it too.

Chris

Hi Chuck,

I’m not a big wine expert. Beer is more my thing. But I like what you’re doing!

I do think the maximum is pretty high, but I don’t know the exact number. And you are also correct in that he can’t be sold. If people want to purchase a lot of homebrew/wine, I sometimes ask them to pay for the ingredients, then I’ll brew the beer. That way, there’s no out of pocket cost, but I’m not selling a finished product. But more often than not, I just give it away.

Pat Lynch

What are the laws for commercial microbrewing? For my purposes, this would be defined by brewing a limited (how much?) amount per (year/month) for sale on premise for consumption on premise only. I’m interested in starting such an establishment, but don’t know the ins and outs of the current law. Thanks very much.

Chris

Hi Pat,
I’m not an expert in the legalities of microbrewing for commercial consumption. I would have to refer you to either the NC Brewer’s Guild (http:/ncbeer.com) or the Beer Law Center here in Raleigh (http://beerlawcenter.com). Good luck!

matt miller

I was a little concerned about the extract vs brewing from grain thing. Was the law written in around 1980 and hardly anyone in North Carolina was brewing anything but from extract? I would think the legislatore might need to be prompted to clarify that part, in writing. The other thing that caught my attention was “…shall have only that alcoholic content produced by natural fermentation.” Obviously, that eliminates distillation.But does that limit what sugars I can add to the beer to boost the alcohol content, over and above what I have been able to convert from grain or that is contained in the extract? I guess as long as it it fermented naturally, it’s okay.

Gavin

What if your under 21?

eliza scott

It would be illegal to brew or consume alcohol meant to drink, but it would be legal to brew cooking wine/beer which is unsuitable to drink because of high sugar or salt content. Basically it is illegal to posses alcohol for drinking while under age, even if you just wanted to give it away or something.

Bryan Conway

Our local ALE officer interprets the law to say that homebrew cannot be enjoyed outside the home setting. We want to have homebrew club meetings but he has stated that if he sees homebrew in an ABC licensed establishment, there will be consequences for the license owner. As a result, nobody wants to allow us into their location for a meeting. Do you have a different take on this?

Chris

Bryan – the ALE officer is correct. According to the law, ABC licensed establishments can only serve beer that has been purchased through a licensed wholesaler (distributor or brewery), thus if homebrew is being consumed at a licensed establishment, it is technically illegal. That said, most ALE officers choose not to strictly enforce this, as there are many other bigger issues on their plates. However, if an ALE officer happens to walk into the homebrew club meeting, then it could mean trouble.

eliza scott

Do you think this also covers rice wines? The law seems vague on that

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