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

Henry Davis henry at henry-davis.com
Mon Jun 25 10:49:27 PDT 2001

At 10:50 AM 6/25/01 -0500, Dan McFeeley wrote:
>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.

There may be a few folks on this mail list who participated in the 
distilling mail list a few years ago. We spent considerable energy 
investigating the claims and counter claims for "freeze distillation." If 
you read the US Code concerned with making spirits you only learn part of 
the story. The rest of the story is told by case law. One case involved a 
winery that wanted to remove alcohol from wine by reverse osmosis and 
discard the alcohol. The objective was to make alcohol free wine. BATF 
successfully made the case that  concentration of alcohol by any means is 
covered by US Code and therefore subject to regulation and taxation. The 
court found that removing water from alcohol and removing alcohol from 
water is the same thing for taxation purposes. That is, the mere act of 
separating the substances was functionally distillation regardless of how 
it was achieved.

As for the reference saying that it's OK to practice freeze distillation, 
be wary of "BATF Officials" used to approve anything. In my case I spoke 
with the San Jose office of BATF to the agent in charge of the permitting 
process, and the agent in charge in the Boston office, and someone else on 
the list contacted their local office with the same story.

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck ...

If you want to talk about how to distill or "fractional crystalize" your 
brews that's fine. Just don't distill and then talk about it.


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