hist-brewing: US Laws on Spirits, Wine, and Beer

Dan McFeeley mcfeeley at keynet.net
Mon Jun 25 08:50:27 PDT 2001

On Sat, 23 June 2001, Greg Lindahl wrote: 

>Thanks. While this may bore non-US readers, it's very important that
>US folks understand that even something as innocent as freeze
>distillation is unfortunately illegal here.

No, actually it's quite legal.  From the web site Scotti supplied for us:
"A still is defined as apparatus capable of being used to separate ethyl
alcohol from a mixture that contains alcohol."   "Freeze distillation" is
a misnomer since the process is actually a concentration of the alcohol
content, not a removal.

This is a section from Dennis Davison's article "Eisbock: The Original
Ice Beer" (_Zymurgy_ vol 18 no. 5 Fall 1995) that addresses this issue:

                       Is it Legal?

    Are homebrewers "distilling" or "freeze distilling" and
    thereby breaking the law, if they make an eisbock in the
    traditional manner by freezing beer and removing ice to
    increase the alcohol content and enhance the flavors?  
    According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
    officials, the process of freezing beer and removing ice
    is called concentrating.  A brewer may not employ any
    process of concentration that separates alcohol spirits
    from any fermented beverage, and since *ice* is being
    removed from *beer* (author's emphasis), this concentration
    process is legal.

    By definition, because homebrew is not produced at a bonded
    brewery and is not sold, it is exempt from the Federal
    Administration Acts of 1935 and 1956 with regard to 
    relabeling.  Homebrewers, therefore, can call their beer
    anything they want.

     We have chosen to refer to the freezing and ice removal
    process (fractional crystallization) as concentration
    to avoid any semantic problems with the term distilling.


Dan McFeeley
mcfeeley at keynet.net

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