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A DISTILLERY IN YOUR HOME?

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BILL WOULD REPEAL BAN ON DISTILLERIES IN "DWELLING HOUSES

"Marc Sorini* - December 2007

A bill introduced in Congress this fall would repeal the

current federal ban on locating a distillery "in any dwelling house." Thus, if

passed, the bill would allow distilleries to be co-located with private homes,

adding new flexibility to small-scale distilling operations. The bill also would

repeal the prohibition on the production of spirits on a premises where beer or

wine is made or produced or any liquor retailed - although alternating

proprietorship arrangements and other devices already provide a way to mitigate

these rules under existing law.The bill, H.R. 3949, was introduced by

Representative Stupak, a Democrat from Michigan. It has been assigned to the

House Ways and Means Committee.

Marc E. Sorini

McDermott Will &

Emery LLP

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We had to walk away from an historic building that was perfect for our needs, and was otherwise zoning/codes compliant, because a divided portion was an apartment. This ran up the "dwelling house" red flag with the TTB.

Multiple use zoning is becoming more popular, especially revitalizing old warehouses and factories, so clarifying or eliminating this qualification could help small operations and the towns that host them.

Nuts that it'll be too late for us.

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I think this would be great. It promotes more indivudality and experimenting of styles. One could pursue their own"bliss" rather than a product for sale. I have toyed with a seasonal distillery based on syruping season (maple and birch syrup) but its hard to justify the cost of something that if it produces any income would be equivalent to being a Wal-Mart Greeter. If this does pass and my model is legal and possible, it would fit in well with extra income for my retirement years.

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I don't think the proposed law is legalizing home distilling. You'd still need to get federal and state licensing.

There's plenty of opportunity to be individualistic and experiment. You just have to have a license, pay the taxes, and make sure you have an investment commensurate with your opportunity.

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So the next logical step then is to see if distilling at home can be legalized for "limited personal use" just as home brewing and home winemaking is. Both of those I feel led to a boom in not only better quality wine and beer, but also into a greater appreciation and respect for it as well.

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So the next logical step then is to see if distilling at home can be legalized for "limited personal use" just as home brewing and home winemaking is. Both of those I feel led to a boom in not only better quality wine and beer, but also into a greater appreciation and respect for it as well.

I did try sending a note to my representative, but one voice probably doesn't do much. I think it's a great way to experiment and learn. Even if you take one of the workshops, it would be nice to be able to practice and work out some of the "bugs" on your own.

Brett

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Guest sensei
So the next logical step then is to see if distilling at home can be legalized for "limited personal use" just as home brewing and home winemaking is. Both of those I feel led to a boom in not only better quality wine and beer, but also into a greater appreciation and respect for it as well.

Just curious, does the ADI take a stand on Bart Stupak (Michigan 1st District) and his unyielding efforts to legalize home distillation for personal use along the lines of beer and wine?

http://www.house.gov/stupak/about_bart.shtml

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Stupak isn't running again. If it doesn't happen this year, this bill won't pass and someone will have to pick it up. And he needs a Senate Sponsor too.

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Unlikely home distilling will become a legal activity. As noted above the TTB role includes protecting the consumer. Inspection of all home distilleries and their goods to ensure they are safe and potable is a physical impossibility. This is not like making wine or beer at home. These are highly volatile spirits, and improperly handled present the very real possibility of danger to the public, both because of the highly flammable nature of the spirits, and due to the dangers of the lack of any third party quality control ensuring potability. Our good friend at Delaware Phoenix said it best. Go through the process, get the license, demonstrate capability and concern, pay your taxes and then explore every possible way to make something new and different. It is a cop-out (dating myself with that phrase I know) to hide behind the excuse that it is some government plot to keep you from being free to do as you please and make what you want without license. All the 250 or so CRAFT distillers in the US did it, including some with facilities that are probably as small as any home distiller would build in their garage. It is not impossible. It is difficult but there is purpose in that, it sorts out those serious enough to be entrusted with making a consumer product that is produced safely and is safe to consumer; AND pay their taxes.

Ralph

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I'm not aware of any rise in horrific accidents or injuries related to home distilling in the countries that allow it; protecting individuals is definitely not what the current U.S. ban on home distilling is about. I am, however, aware of over 200,000 bathtub related injuries yearly. I propose neighborhood communal bathing structures, duly licensed and inspected, where innocent people can be properly supervised by trained professional bathers.

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Taking a bath is not illegal. Making alcohol at home is. And I don't recall mentioning that injuries in the home are the reason for the Government ban on home distillation. There is only one country I'm aware that permits home distillation, Australia.

But the real point is that the TTB has two mandates: protect the revenue and protect the consumer. Nothing in there about protecting the distiller.

And while I disagree with the prohibitions against locating a distillery on a vessel or attached to a residence, I am still in support of the prohibition against home distillation until some mechanism is put in place to ensure the viability of the juice. There may not be any record of injuries related to home distillation, explosions and the like; there is ample proof many consumers have been made ill by bad spirits made at unlicensed facilities.

R

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As Ralph said, the problem is not explosions so much as some of the end product:

Methanol is a highly toxic alcohol commonly found in automobile windshield washer solvent, gas line antifreeze, copy machine fluid, fuel for small stoves, paint strippers, and as an industrial solvent (Budavari 1996B; Suit 1990).

Oh yea, its also found in distillate.

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The only reason for the prohibition against home distilling is "protecting the revenue" pure and simple. Making decent cuts is about all it takes to make sure you don't have dangerous levels of methanol. I'm all for home distilling being legalized to stand with home brewing and wine making.

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Everything there is includes "protecting the revenue" for you, for me, for the Government. That does not mean that it is the only motivation and in this case I must respectfully disagree with Marc.

Home brewers and winemakers are working with 12-24% maximum abv, impossible to ignite, whereas a distiller is working with flammables. If a brewer or winemaker screws up, the consumer is not ingesting 40-50% alcohols; that plural is intentional. So-called "home distillers" have been known to produce goods high in undesirable, often toxic materials included, and sometimes in toxic concentrations. As Colin points out, methanol is toxic; and the TTB is charged with ensuring that levels of some toxic materials do not exceed set safe limits. Who does that for the home distiller who impresses his buddies with his cool homemade hootch, slips them a bottle to take home? There is no assurance that a home distiller will abide the law, not sell his product and ensure it is safe to drink.

I take that back.

There is a way. The aspiring home distiller can go on line, download the packet from the TTB that includes all the BASIC PERMIT paperwork, go through the process and acquire a BASIC PERMIT, there's no charge for the permit and the bond is based on how much you make. Then apply for a State permit to distill spirits. There is no qualifying minimum size for a distillery that I am aware. Some of our most creative distillers are operating in the smallest of spaces with five and ten gallon stills until they get to the point they want to produce for the real world.

So that's my suggestion. Go through the process like the rest of the honest distillers. Get a permit. Buy a 3 gallon still from New Zealand online, file the required regular reporting paperwork, acquire a bond, pay the Federal Excise Tax on the goods you keep and report the goods you destroy as you do your R&D. Build a separate garage, or rent a shed or some secure structure to meet the requirement and "protect the revenue". Be a grown up. Be legal. Then go forth and create something no one has ever tasted before.

I was in the climbing business before I made whiskey. It was real business, with a real tax number and lots of insurance. I taught climbing, built climbing gyms, rigged modest stunts off impressive structures all around Manhattan, took climbers to Europe for climbing excursions, managed and produced climbing events for National television, served on the Board of Directors of the American Alpine Club; 30 years climbing but I never was a "Guide". When I had need of a Guide for my clients, I hired the local professionals. I was asked often by clients to Guide them, for substantial amounts of money. But I never did it. And I admonished every one of the many young talented climbers I knew who guided without a Guide permit or insurance. "When you are a Guide, you are responsible for your client in every way not just on a rope; including if your client is injured for whatever reason while in your care, that is, you must make sure they will be cared for if they are injured. No one who does risky things can ever guarantee safety. No matter how safe you are, no matter how careful you are there is always the unknowable, the unforeseen. The only qualified way you assure your client of your Professionalism is to get your Guide license, get insurance and BE a Professional."

I would not an unlicensed "doctor" perform surgery on my son or wife, or me. Given a choice I trust a Licensed Professional first. Not for nothing do we have a Universal Building Code that assures buildings are built correctly and to an agreed standard. Even though there are many talented builders out there we rely on the Code and the Code Enforcement Officials to make sure our houses don't fall down on us because some unqualified person didn't follow the Code.

The same thing applies here. If a person intends to make a volatile, arguably poisonous substance in a process that produces a waste stream including some toxic byproducts, that person has a responsibility to the public as much as to his family and his buddies (with their special bottles) to take EVERY precaution. The only assurance, to the extent anyone can ultimately enforce any law or "assure" anyone of anything at all (thank you Werner Heisenberg), is the Law and the process of getting a BASIC PERMIT and a State license and keeping it. The daunting character of the applications process has a weeding-out effect. A person who would eschew the reporting process is more likely to be sloppy or careless in other ways that might have disastrous effect.

Apart from that, every other responsible distiller in the Country did it. We pay our taxes. We all went through the permit process from the biggest to the smallest (not just at the start but now and every day) and it is possible. It's time consuming but it just ain't rocket science, plain and simple. It is not as costly as you think, especially if you are making very small amounts and not selling the goods you produce.

Want to be a distiller? Get a permit. Pay the taxes. File the paperwork. Join the Community of distillers. And make something special.

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Making decent cuts is about all it takes to make sure you don't have dangerous levels of methanol.

??

Just not true... Cuts don't really have much to do with it. Think how much water comes across your still, methanol and ethanol have closer boiling points.

It's important to make sure that you minimize the methanol in your ferment.

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Want to be a distiller? Get a permit. Pay the taxes. File the paperwork. Join the Community of distillers. And make something special.

I'm proud to call you and Gable my peers.

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There is no prohibition of home canning, but if you do it incorrectly you will harm and even kill everyone who consumes the canned food. How's that different from what you think the prohibition on home distilling is supposed to prevent? In home distilling, the distiller is the consumer, that's the whole point.

Revenue, revenue, revenue only. That's it. Home distilling has a very long history in just about every country on earth. Your information on the dangers of home distilling are incorrect and misguided. The illnesses and deaths from moonshine during Prohibition were caused primarily by poisonous additives added to give the hooch more oomph. What home distiller is going to add embalming fluid to their product? Of course taking a bath is not illegal, despite the obvious dangers, just as home distilling should not be. Climbing mountains by oneself is not illegal either. Taking care of one's own medical problems is also not illegal. And anyone who ever built anything and had it inspected knows that some code inspectors are some of the biggest idiots around; my inspectors didn't know their ass from a fire rated door.

I have a permit, I pay the taxes, I file the paperwork, and I think home distilling should be legal.

"It is not as costly as you think, especially if you are making very small amounts and not selling the goods you produce." How in the world does getting a DSP permit to produce alcohol in very small amounts and not selling the goods you produce protect anyone from harm? How is that different than producing distilled spirits in one's home without a permit? The only difference is the paperwork and taxes, not safety. If you're against people evading burdensome alcohol taxes just say so, don't pretend saving people from themselves is the reason for the home distilling prohibition.

By the by, what I'm against is what I see as undue government intrusion, not any fellow forum poster. It really gets me in a tizzy; I think I'll have a drink. (that I made! :) )

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Ralph, I was under the impression that you couldn't just build a structure on your property and distill legally? But are you saying that you can? Please elaborate if as I would be very interested in going this route. Thanks.

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Revenue, revenue, revenue only. That's it.

Respectfully, this isn't the case. On a Federal level, we have to comply with the TTB, the FDA, and OSHA. Then there's all the State and Local authorities when it comes to things like Food Safety, or Fire Safety.

The TTB is primarily concerned with revenue collection, but also with consumer protection. Why else would the have a lab, a formulation dept., and a label approval process?

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Depending upon your local laws it may or may not be possible. Local zoning applies. State laws apply. But in NY, if you have a definable "premises" with proper security, and it's a legal structure in conformance with local zoning and building code, it can be licensed as a Distilled Spirits Plant.

But as always, read your laws.

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I thought the TTB says no DSP in a house or dwelling and I thought it had to have it's own address? I guess I'll be calling the TTB. Thanks. BTW I'm in California.

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Because it's ALCOHOL. It isn't soup. It isn't a hot stovetop or soap on the bathtub floor or any other potentially dangerous household item. It's ALCOHOL, an addictive substance. One can argue comparisons with anything, but the fact remains, it is a dangerous readily available consumable and it's production and quality control, to the extent possible, must be regulated.

Perhaps there are some other distillers out there who feel as I do, these would be the Professionals. And there are renegades out there too, who may or may not intend to sell their goods. It seems to me if one calls for something to be "legalized" this implies regulation by nature. And regulation means the Government steps in. If the home distiller is true to the nature I would anticipate, that "no government" "I can do what I want" attitude, why seek the sanction of the Government by even raising the issue of permission at all? To call for the legalization guarantees government interference in your sacred undertaking. Your argument is contradictory.

As for any claim I am ill informed, I will leave that to the other readers of this forum to decide.

But I'll say this. If I were a home distiller I sure wouldn't be posting on this forum, inviting the Fed to come knocking on my door. I'd be keeping my little hobby a secret and enjoying my illicit hootch and lifting a glass to anarchy and whiskey. I wonder every time I go to a whiskey program and there are half a dozen guys there yucking it up and bragging on their goods, "Oh yeah, just got some right here in my pocket, have a snort. Made it myself." One never knows who is standing next to you, like a TTB investigator (you can't recognize them, they look just like you and me). IT'S ILLEGAL.

Rather than waste your time writing here, write your Congressman and do something productive with your arguments, change the law. In the meanwhile you're a criminal so for godsakes keep your head down and your mouth shut unless you are eager to get pinched.

R

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My final reply to this topic.

New Zealand is not the only country where home distilling is legal. That is uninformed.

Listing additional bureaucratic requirements for licensed distilling does not invalidate the claim that the TTB DSP requirement is about revenue. It was in the beginning, it still is.

Ralph, I don't know who you're arguing with but you keep coming up with new ones more wacky than the last.

To wit: tobacco is addictive and there's nothing stopping you from growing your own. Your argument is a non sequitur.

To wit: removing or enacting laws to allow home distilling does not equate with a call for regulation, it equates to a call for deregulation and decriminalization, same as home brewing and wine making. Your argument is illogical.

To wit: your "it's ALCOHOL" "IT'S ILLEGAL" emphasis is nonsense and that argument a fallacy.

A DSP permit comes with no training requirements, no educational requirements, no professional licensing requirements, no competency requirements of any kind. It does come with filing and tax requirements. I guess that's what makes you such a Professional.

The TTB is not roaming around trying to pinch home distillers and the actual applied criminality of home distilling is on par with possession of small amounts of marijuana. IT'S ILLEGAL. And the law is an ass.

Debating the merits of an onerous prohibition and trying to convince others of it's uselessness is both constructive and worthwhile. I AM NOT A CROOKTM.

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