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Home Brew Hobbyists Toast Imminent Change in Utah Liquor Laws

Home Brew Hobbyists Toast Imminent Change in Utah Liquor Laws

Home Brew (photo courtesy of flickr user St0rmz)

Kathy Stephenson | Salt Lake Tribune

Doug Wawarzynski, a second-year law student at the University of Utah, could see that his future career and his beer-brewing hobby would come to a head one day.

The Utah State Bar asks applicants if they have ever violated the law. But making beer or wine in the basement without a license is illegal in Utah.

“I knew I’d be posed with that question and I wanted me and the law to be in line before I graduated,” said the 29-year-old Salt Lake City resident, who led a yearlong push to make amateur beer and wine brewing legal in the Beehive State.

This year, HB51 breezed through the House and the Senate and was signed into law on March 24. On May 12, when it takes effect, hobbyists 21 or older who produce less than 100 gallons of wine or beer in a year for personal or family consumption are exempt from state-licensing requirements. Two people, 21 or older, who live in the same house can produce up to 200 gallons without needing a license. (Distilling spirits without a license is still illegal under federal law.)

Gary Glass, director of the American Home Brewers Association in Boulder, Colo., said that while prohibition of alcohol ended in the United States in 1933, a glitch in the wording kept home brewing illegal until 1978. At that time, it was up to each state to determine whether to legalize the practice. Utah was one of the last. Now only Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi and Oklahoma forbid home brewing.

The Utah legislative change received little media fanfare during the session, taking a back seat to other changes to the state’s quirky liquor laws, including the elimination of private clubs and the glass enclosures known as Zion curtains.