Saturday, March 27, 2010

Home Distilling

In our travels at we've met many micro-brewers and wine makers who first received training in their craft by manufacturing beer or wine at home. This list includes many of today's most popular brewers, including Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and Jim Koch of The Samuel Adams Brewery. Koch still supports the homebrew movement with the Samuel Adams American Homebrew Contest where the brewery crafts the winner's brew. And homebrewers even have their own support group, the American Homebrewers Association.

Now, home wine and beer making may still not be legal in your specific area. When the 21st Amendment passed,which repealed the 18th amendment and the Volstead Act, it left regulation of alcohol to the states. However, they still heavily taxed home brew and wine until 1978, when Congress exempted a certain amount of beer\wine brewed for personal or family use from taxation. (A household of two adults or more can make up to 200 gallons of homemade beer\wine\cider annually. Single adult house-holds can make up to 100 gallons annually.)

Yet, there are no similar exemptions for home-distilling; partly because the government puritans want to control people's behaviors regarding hard alcohol. In fact, distillers were the main targets of the 18th Amendment which outlawed the manufacture of alcoholic beverages with 40% alcohol. It wasn't until the Volstead Act which outlawed the manufacture of alcoholic beverages with 1.2% alcohol, where wine and beer production was virtually eliminated. Yes, sacrificial and small qualities of home winemaking were still permitted.

But the primary restriction to home distilling is the federal government's unending thirst for tax dollars. Approximately 32% of the purchase price of a 750ml bottle of your favorite spirit goes to Uncle Sam or states. "That's more than three times the tax on wine, and twice that on beer." So yes, you can distill spirits at home, put the government forces you to undergo the same agonizing process that commercial distillers experience. Yet, the U.S. government allows the purchase of a one gallon still for the purposes of distilling water and essential oils from plants. There are many online providers of distilling equipment such as Home Distilling Shop. And it is legal to research and distribute information about distilling alcohol. But remember, it is not the distillation process that creates alcohol - its fermentation. So maybe there are still some brave souls out there experimenting with distilling micro batches of fermented grappa, corn whiskey, applejack, plum brandy - you name it.
Post a Comment