Home brewers hope to make their hobby legal

— 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.

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