Sell my own beer?
July 20, 2007 9:11 AM   Subscribe

What would I need to do to legally sell my homebrewed beer? I live in Washington State.
posted by bajema to Law & Government (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Start here for an overview.
posted by jamaro at 9:30 AM on July 20, 2007

Good start, jamaro. I don't think you want to go here. It won't be worth your while for the volume you produce. Be happy it's good and give it to your friends. Or see if a commercial brewery will make a batch for you? Some small micros might consider this.
posted by sagwalla at 9:36 AM on July 20, 2007

AFAIK there's a trick, and it works like this:

"I've got this amazing bottle here, complete with this fancy cap. It's really an amazing bottle, and you can have 6 of them, yes 6. When you buy these amazing bottles for $10, I will be happy to fill them up, for free, with some beer I made."

Lots of people sell mead and wine like this, I've had offers, but never done it.
posted by TomMelee at 9:52 AM on July 20, 2007

I can't speak specifically to the laws of WA, but tricks like what TomMelee suggest might not stand up in court, if it came to that. If it is obvious to a reasonable person that you are exchanging your beer for money, well, that's what you're doing.

If you are actually brewing it in your home, the first question you might want to ask is whether it would be legal to brew commercially there. If it is (or you have somewhere else to brew) then it looks like, given the first FAQ on jamaro's site, that you'll be navigating your way around this attractive site
posted by nanojath at 12:16 PM on July 20, 2007

As a homebrewer myself, I've considered the option of brewing a batch of homebrew for someone in exchange for their purchase of the ingredients. It would be sort of a communal homebrewing, where multiple parties would contribute funds for the ingredients (with a bit extra to compensate me for the use of my time and equipment), and I'd brew a batch of beer and give each of them their share, maybe teach some of them to brew along the way.

Still, I'm sure the authorities wouldn't see it the way I would. In court, if you're taking money and returning beer, you're selling it. Especially if it's more than the cost of the ingredients.

Hm, I wonder if I could have them buy me the ingredients by purchasing me gift certificates at my LHBS or B3 or AHB?

Slippery Slope Alert!
posted by CaptainZingo at 3:37 PM on July 20, 2007

At some point you run into other legal issues about the amount of beer you can actually produce as a homebrewer. I think the federal limit is 100 gallons per adult or 200 gallons per household.
posted by sagwalla at 12:23 AM on July 23, 2007

I think an even more immediate question is, "Can I make my beer shelf stable?"

I make yeasty home made root beer from time to time, and if we let the bottles go too long, the yeast gets all excited and explodes them.

Does anyone know if you could pressure cook your properly fermented bottles, killing the yeast but leaving the bottles, caps and beverage intact?
posted by SlyBevel at 2:04 PM on July 23, 2007

Exploding bottles are waaaaaaaay more common with sodamakers than beer makers. waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay.

I think pressure cooking bottles is an excellent way to make them explode in your pressure cooker.

If they're really exploding that much, you should be using waaaay less priming sugar, or a different sugar (corn, for example.) Then, of course, there's always force carbonating, but that takes away half the fun.
posted by TomMelee at 6:17 PM on July 23, 2007

Thanks for answering my derail, Tom!

I didn't know that it's less common with beer, but it makes sense, beer having so much less sugar than soda.

Would you happen to know if there's a way to shelf stabilize my yeasty root beer?

(Apologies for the second derail.)
posted by SlyBevel at 7:38 PM on July 23, 2007

I used to know some really really great homebrew websites, and I've since lost them all. I think some possible solutions would include larger bottles and/or filling them less, since air compresses better than fluid.

Also, if I can ask, why is your soda so yeasty? If I remember correctly, which I probably don't, you can sugar-carbonate a batch of soda in as little as 48-72 hours, yes yes? Why not leave it in your sterile carboy until you need to bottle it?

You could also knock the stuffing out of your yeast w/ a few sulfites, but you'll have to experiment because you don't want to kill it *all*, so it will carbonate.

What else...keeping it cool and dark, of course helps. I also discovered that keeping bottles in small batches kind of separated from each other helped, that way if one bottle exploded, it would only take out a couple others. It sucks to find that 1 bottle has wrecked 10, and now you've got a sticky mess all over hell's half acre.

Sorry I'm not more help, a little googling says people use Sodium Benzoyate to stabilize the brew, but I'm not really sure what that does---and also half the fun of homebrewing means no preservatives...but...sorry!
posted by TomMelee at 8:16 PM on July 23, 2007

1. "Why so yeasty?" Because that's the family recipe. Dozens of us love this unique recipe, and it's our special ultra-yeasty way of doing it.
1b. Because it's delicious that way.
2. Sugar carbonation? Probably makes me sound like an idiot, but how does sugar add CO2 to the mix?
3. Batch size: 5 gallons at a time, every time. Comes out to something like 20 various-sized (vintage, like Nehi and Squirt) bottles.
4. Huh, carboy. Never thought of that, or knew what it was until just now. I'm afraid I'd just blow the thing up, though.
5. Sulfides/ites/Sodium Benzoate. That's a negative. We usually use the stuff quickly enough that shelf stabilization isn't a huge issue. Changing the recipe is a deal breaker. I'm really hoping for a way to shelf stabilize post fermentation, with recipe intact.

And yeah, really, really yeasty. You hit that one on the head. So yeasty, in fact, that there's about a quarter-inch layer of the stuff on the bottoms of the larger bottles when all's said and done. We usually pour the root beer from the bottle into a drinking receptacle so that the gooey yeast doesn't end up going down with your last few swigs.
posted by SlyBevel at 10:17 PM on July 23, 2007

1. Gotcha.
2. You don't prime the bottles w/ sugar right before you put the stuff in the bottle? When you brew, yeasties eat the sugar. Generally, they're peeing out alcohol, but not in sodas. Anyway, the byproduct of this reaction is co2. In a fermenter it just escapes, but in a bottle it can't go anywhere so it dissolves into solution. I'm guessing you're carbonating via active yeasties from the original batch, which is cool too.
3. Nice.
4. You can't blow up a carboy (or a fermenting bucket) because you put an airlock on the top of it...co2 OUT, nothing in, it maintains a sterile environment for your yeasties. Allowing your yeasty concoction to stay here will change the taste though, as the yeasties will continue to colonize as they power thru available sugar.
5. Sorry mate, besides temperature and darkness and not filling the bottles as much, I'm fresh out of ideas.

You should save the yeast leavings---they are unbelieveably good for you. Here's a vocabulary word for the beer community it's called "trub". Of course, it's not just yeast, it's other digested solids falling out of solution. Yum.

Good luck! Send me a bottle imo. ;-) I gave up on sodas after the last 10 bottles of my delicious birch beer exploded in a box. could just send me your recipe :)
posted by TomMelee at 4:55 AM on July 24, 2007


About your request above...You should add your email to your profile. Or you could email me. I brewed today. :)
posted by SlyBevel at 11:14 AM on July 24, 2007

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