For beer enthusiasts, homebrewing may seem like a reasonable way to take their passion to the next level. Sensibly, underaged brewers probably want to know if they can legally brew beer under the age of 21. After all, 21 is the legal age required to drink alcoholic beverages, so it would be logical to assume the same applies when it comes to creating it.
If you are under the age of 21, you can legally purchase everything you need for home brewing. However, state laws regarding alcohol consumption and sales still apply to brews concocted at home. While you can safely gather the ingredients without breaking any laws, you enter a legal grey area once you start putting them together.
Before you start brewing, it is essential to become familiar with the production, possession, and consumption laws of the state you live in.
Homebrewing laws can get complicated, so I went ahead and did the research for you; here is everything you need to know about the legality of homebrewing if you are under the age of 21.
The Legality of Homebrewing
Brewing beer used to be illegal in the United States between 1920 and 1933, before Prohibition was repealed.
However, it was not until 45 years later, that homebrewing was addressed by federal law.
On October 14, 1978, Jimmy Carter legalized homebrew production for personal use on the national level.
However, individual states still held (and hold) the ultimate power over homebrewing laws. It was not until Alabama and Mississippi passed legislation in 2013 that homebrewing became legal in every state.
For detailed information on current homebrewing rights according to each state, check out this page by the American Homebrewers Association.
Do You Have to Be 21 to Brew Beer?
Typically, you can legally purchase all the ingredients needed to brew beer, since they do not contain alcohol themselves until combined.
Some states have laws that explicitly forbid the purchase or possession of equipment used to produce beer for those under the age of 21.
As a work-around, a lot of brewing equipment can be classified as other categories, such as cooking or laboratory glassware. In some states, purchasing equipment can be as easy as a trip to Bed Bath & Beyond.
Additionally, brewing kits can often be purchased online, regardless of age.
Federally, anyone who reaches the age of 18 is considered an adult by law, making it legal for them to make a homebrew.
However, the federal drinking age of 21 still applies, meaning you cannot drink a homemade alcoholic beverage.
Some states have clarified restrictions by setting the age of production or possession of homebrew at 21.
Furthermore, other laws exist that restrict how much you can produce by volume or weight.
Legal Drinking Age
In the United States, the legal drinking age is 21.
However, individual states allow parents, guardians, or spouses to supply minors with alcohol under specific circumstances.
Some state laws seem to focus on consumption, while others concentrate on possession.
Legal loopholes sometimes allow underaged civilians to drink in their homes when accompanied by family members who are of legal age or when no guardians are present.
If you live in a state with such laws, you may be able to consume your homebrew legally.
The seven exceptions to the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) include:
- On private premises, with parental consent: In some states, underaged drinking is allowed on private premises as long as they have the permission of or are accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Examples of private residences include properties not open to the general public, such as residential homes, apartments, or cabins.
- On private premises, without parental consent: In some states, underaged people do not even need parental consent to consume alcohol on private premises. In some cases, it is still illegal for adults to provide underaged people with alcohol, even if such laws are in effect.
- On alcohol-selling premises, with parental approval: Some states allow underage drinking on alcohol-selling premises as long as a parent or legal guardian provides the alcohol or is currently present. Examples include restaurants, bars, cocktail lounges, and clubs.
- Religious purposes: Some states permit underage consumption of alcohol for religious purposes. Sometimes, the type of alcohol is limited, or official religious representatives must be the provider. For instance, drinking wine at a church ceremony.
- Educational purposes: These exemptions specifically pertain to culinary school and instances of educational growth.
- Governmental work or law related purposes: Some states make allowances for government or law enforcement assignments. Examples include research and working undercover.
- Medical reasons: These laws tend to vary by state and include treatments prescribed or administered by licensed physicians.
(Source: Drinking Age)
MLDA Laws by State
The following table outlines which states have exemptions for the MLDA:
|Type of Exemption||States Allowed|
|Private premises with parental consent||Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming|
|Private premises without parental consent||Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, Oklahoma, South Carolina|
|Alcohol-selling premises, with parental approval||Connecticut, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, Wisconsin, Wyoming|
|Religious purposes||Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, Wyoming|
|Educational purpose||Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont|
|Government work or law-related purposes||Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Oregon, South Carolina|
|Medical reasons||Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Utah, Washington, Wyoming|
(Source: Drinking Age)
The five states that do not have any exceptions for underage alcohol consumption are:
- New Hampshire
- West Virginia
To learn more about the specifics of possession and consumption laws by state, check out the National Youth Rights Association website.
Can I Sell My Homebrew?
If you are under the age of 21, alcohol sales are generally prohibited, no matter where you reside.
If you are over the age of 21, you will still need to obtain an alcohol license to sell your homebrews.
Most likely, you will only require a beer and wine license, which is considerably cheaper than a full liquor license.
In the United States, the hobby of homebrewing has grown exponentially.
The American Homebrewers Association (AHA) estimates that over one million Americans create beer or wine at home at least once annually.
Brewing beer can be a bonding activity for the whole family as long as underaged brewers are not also consuming.
In most cases, individuals under the age of 21 can legally partake in homebrewing, though it is strongly recommended that parental supervision and permission are involved.
Homebrewing can be a lot of fun and help you learn the ins and outs of what makes a good-tasting brew.
Often, brewing your own beer can be healthier since it is a natural process, and you have complete control over what goes into your mixture. Furthermore, homebrewing helps you save money in the long run.
Just make sure that you check out both state and local laws for where you live before you get brewing!