Thousands of Alabamians who make their own beer at home may soon be able to come out from underground with their secret suds. A proposed new state law would make home brewing legal, as it is in 48 other states.
When this year's legislative session gets going, this will be the fifth time this proposal has started through the legislature on behalf of a small, but dedicated, constituency.
"We're just beer nerds. We enjoy crafting recipes," said Dan Perry.," said Dan Perry.
Perry, a longtime home brewer, finally decided to go legit and make a business of it. He got all the state licenses and opened the Straight to Ale microbrewery.
"To brew your own beer in Alabama is a felony. To possess one drop of beer that you brewed in Alabama is a felony. To possess the equipment necessary to brew one drop of beer in Alabama is a felony," said Rich, a home brewer advocate.
Now, state representative Mac McCutcheon has pre-filed a bill to legalize home brewing.
Home brewers estimate there are at least 5,000 of their fellow enthusiasts in the state.
"It's a lot of work, but it's a lot of fun," said Perry, "if you're a technical kind of person and if you enjoy making the system and having your system run."
Enthusiasts say the legal situation can be especially painful in places like Huntsville, where many people move from other states where home brewing is legal. They get here, set up shop, and then get a nasty and scary surprise.
"I have a friend who was an award winning home brewer, had many medals, national competitions, that gave up the hobby. He has a top secret clearance, and he couldn't risk losing his clearance over a hobby that was for enjoyment. It wasn't worth the risk," Rich said.
The proposed bill would allow the home brewing up to 15 gallons a quarter. It would not legalize making hard liquor.
Brewing fans say decision makers need to understand nobody's in it to get drunk.
"They're in it because they enjoy the craft of creating a product that's unique, not Budweiser or Coors. It's cheaper to buy beer at the store than it is to make it," said Rich.
The home brew legalization bill was actually approved by the Alabama House in 2012 but ran out of time before it could be voted on by the Senate.
This time, it's starting early in the session and advocates say it does seem to have enough support to get approved in both chambers.
Governor Robert Bentley has not been a big advocate and does not drink himself, but he has already signed several bills that open up Alabama's beer markets and choices.
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