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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

OLCC Blowback Escalates

A couple days ago, I passed along news that the OLCC and Oregon DOJ had ruled that a long-standing law prevented judging home brew and homemade wine at the Oregon State Fair. Yesterday, folks in the homebrew community as well as Lisa Morrison suggest that not only will this end the State Fair competition, but all competitions. Here's Lisa:
It also appears that home brewers might not even be able to participate in other competitions outside the state; the OLCC is ruling that homebrew can’t be transported, because the law stipulates the beer must be consumed at the home where it is brewed. Heck, home brewers might not even be able to legally bring a corny keg of their latest IPA to friend’s summer barbecue the way the OLCC is currently interpreting the law...

Indeed, at least two Portland-based homebrew clubs are being impacted by this mess. PDX Brewers have already decided to ban homebrew from its meetings, and the Oregon Brew Crew, one of the oldest homebrew clubs in the country, is meeting later today (Tuesday) to discuss whether to ban members from bringing homebrew to meetings. In-house club competitions, which are held monthly to help brewers learn more about brewing specific styles, will probably also be discontinued, and several larger competitions, including the American Homebrewers Association-sanctioned Fall Classic, and the in-club Collaborator Project, in which winners get to brew their winning beer at Widmer Brothers Brewing, will no doubt become a thing of the past. (Rob Widmer tells me they are having a “regulations specialist” look into this mess as I type).

I may be swimming up a roaring torrent here, but I think all this panic is overblown. No one is going to start cracking down on homebrew competitions. No cop is going to pull over homebrewers like erstwhile rum-runners (though the imagery is enticing). There are several issues here. The mere existence of a law on the books does not make it enforceable. (We have several crazy laws on the books.) An example I'm quite familiar with: when I asked the state whether it would be illegal if a pub serving "pints" in 14-ounce glasses was legal, they admitted that it probably wasn't. But there was no way to enforce it.

Beyond a written law, you need: 1) a penalty for violating the law, and 2) funds to enforce it. The state can't keep schools open; it's damn sure not sending cops out after homebrewers. And even if a homebrewer was caught in violation; what would the state do with her?

This is a stupid law that may or may not be changed. I'm a bit of a radical, so my instinct is to overtly flout the law. The OLCC's interpretation is clearly not consonant with the intent of the law; enforcing it advances no discernible social good; and bothering to try to enforce it is an affront to the will of the people. I think a "Hey OLCC, Here We Are" Homebrew Contest is in order.

Oh, and one more thing. While it will be useful to contact your local rep and senator to let them know to change the law, this isn't a quick fix. The legislature won't be in session again until January.

Of course, there's a Facebook page to protest the law; go and join if you wish to publicly register your displeasure. Meanwhile, I'm going to load the Toyota fulla homebrew and drive around town until a cop pulls me over.


  1. I don't live in Oregon, but I agree with your thought. A public mockery of the law in form of an impromptu homebrew comp is a fantastic idea!

  2. Meanwhile, I'm going to load the Toyota fulla homebrew and drive around town until a cop pulls me over.

    Only if you have the opening 10 minutes of the Raising Arizona soundtrack playing while doing so.

  3. "I'm going to load the Toyota fulla homebrew and drive around town until a cop pulls me over."

    Kinda like Fritz Maytag driving around with the brick of hops on his passenger seat? I little to passive....

    It's really all a big laugh isn't it? A state that interprets laws to stop Home Brewing competitions. Isn't that the stupidest thing you've ever heard? 22-30 it's been OK.... Then some NANNY DICK HEADS want to read in between the lines?

    Fight back, protest have a homebrew comp on the steps of the capital, whatever it takes!

  4. Lars had Chris from Oregon Brew Crew on his show about an hour ago (yes, I know, conservative talk radio rots the brain and all that jazz). Anyway, I was going to write up a post about it, but decided to check here first, and surprise surprise, you beat me to it.

    One thing Chris mentioned that I haven't seen reported on; the issue started not with the Oregon State Fair, but with Deschutes checking with their OLCC rep to see if it was legal for them to host a homebrew competition at their brewery. I think Chris said it was this OLCC rep that initially reinterpreted the law. Not sure if that is true, just what I heard on the radio.


  5. This makes me want to start homebrewing so I can go around giving out homebrew to people and entering contests.

  6. Quite the protest here! Reminds me of a UC Berkeley protest... on Quaaludes.


  7. @Kevin

    Not sure where it started, but I have a copy of an email between Leslie Klienkopf and Fearless brewing from May 9th where she warned Fearless that their compitition may be in violation of the law.

    The laws they are specificly talking about are

    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.

    No person shall peddle or deliver alcoholic beverages to or at any place, where, without a license, alcoholic beverages are sold or offered for sale. No licensee shall sell or offer for sale any alcoholic beverage in a manner, or to a person, other than the license permits the licensee to sell

    The way there interpreting the law is shaky and might not actually hold up in court.

  8. @Jared

    I don't see how either of those laws can stand up!

    Re: ORS401.473
    "Home Consumption" does not necessarily mean the home in which it was brewed.

    And Re:ORS471.405
    None of this homebrew is being sold, and if it is at a location where beer is being sold, as long as there is a license for that sale, it should be good!

  9. I vote that we take this opportunity to push for more homebrewing liberties! Why not legalize the non-profit sale of homebrew? Thumb our noses at the TTB, we should be able to sell our goods for at least the cost of production.

    In the meantime, it is interesting to see all of these homebrew clubs recoil immediately. Who wants to join my new "We still drink at meetings" club?

  10. There are plenty of homebrew laws that need to go. It's still amazing that a couple state only recently legalized homebrewing. I also discovered Michigan law prohibits shipping homebrew. Techically, the only way to enter is to deliver in person including the recent AHA National Homebrewer's Competition. Well aware the USPS will not transport homebrew, I went to UPS and FedEx as advised by homebrew competitions. UPS saw the words "homebrew competition" on the label and said no. Relabeled, FedEx entered the destination address in their computer and recognized it as a brewery which prompted a series of questions about the contents of the package. Amazing. Don't we have bigger issues than shipping beer?