By Guest Blogger, Summer Associate

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission and the Oregon Department of Justice recently opined that, under a post-prohibition-era law, homebrewed beer and homemade wine must be consumed at home. This opinion, reportedly in response to a question regarding the permissibility of public competitions involving homebrewed beer, is in effect a reversal of the OLCC’s previous policy permitting public competitions and understandably has caused great concern within the Oregon home brewing community. One immediate effect has been the cancellation of the amateur beer and wine competitions at the Oregon State Fair after more than 20 years of such contests.

The law in question, ORS § 471.403(1), reads


No person shall brew, ferment, distill, blend or rectify any alcoholic liquor unless licensed so to do by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. However, the Liquor Control Act does not apply to the making or keeping of naturally fermented wines and fruit juices or beer in the home, for home consumption and not for sale.


Apparently, the OLCC and DOJ determined that “for home consumption” does not include public tastings and competitions, and therefore any out-of-home consumption is subject to OLCC control.


However, a few questions remain. First, what will the Oregon courts say that the statute means? The OLCC and DOJ have changed their view of the law and may therefore choose to enforce its provisions more broadly, but in the absence of a new administrative rule codifying the revised interpretation, the courts may not come to the same conclusion as OLCC. Second, specifically which provision of the Act would a homebrewer violate by participating in a competition? Arguably, a homebrewer would violate ORS § 471.405(2), which reads


No person shall purchase, possess, transport or import, except for sacramental purposes, an alcoholic beverage unless it is procured from or through the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, except as provided otherwise in the Liquor Control Act.


That said, because ORS § 471.403(1) permits the “keeping” of homebrewed beer in connection with home consumption, it is not clear that participating in a public competition amounts to more than this.


In the meantime, some homebrewers have organized the Oregon Homebrewers Alliance to urge the Oregon Legislature to update the law during its next session in January 2011. Reportedly, Rep. Mike Schaufler, D-Happy Valley, and Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene are working on a draft bill that would change the law to explicitly allow home brewers and winemakers to take their products outside their homes. Stay tuned.