Is Your State Restricting Your Beer?

Posted on March 9th, 2010

Two weeks ago the Alabama Senate passed a bill legalizing the homebrewing of beer and wine. If the bill, which is now being considered by the Alabama House, goes into law, Alabama will become one of the last states in the US to legalize homebrewing. Although homebrewing is legal under federal law there a few states which still ban the hobby. Unfortunately, these aren’t the only restrictive beer laws on the books in many US states.  This includes not just what you can make at home, but what you can buy form the store, such as how strong beer can be. Here’s a quick rundown of some of these prohibitive beer laws.

Iowa – Beer > 5% ABV must be shipped through state warehouse, making it difficult to find and all but illegal.

Utah – Beer > 4% ABV can only be sold in state stores. Only 4% ABV or below beer available on tap. Ban on the sales of kegs.

Pennsylvania – Beer is only available through state run distributors or restaurants. Distributors mainly sell cases and kegs, making it difficult to try new and unusual beers. Six packs and 12 packs of beer can be purchased from bars and restaurants to be taken home, but only 194 ounces (or sixteen 12oz bottles) at a time. Pennsylvania is also one of the few states in which you must be 21 to purchase non-alcoholic (0.5% ABV) beer.  Breweries most also register their beer with the state, last week a controversial raid took place in Philadelphia of three bars selling aged beers not registered because the brewery had gone out of business.

Alabama – Beer stronger than 13.9% ABV is not permitted. No bottles larger than 16 ounces.

Florida – No bottles larger than 32 ounces.

Georgia – 14% ABV cap on beer. A recent development, up until five years ago the cap was 6% ABV

Oklahoma – Beer stronger than 4% ABV can on be sold at room temperature. This refrigeration ban has lead to many craft breweries to skip the state. Homebrewing is also still illegal.

Kansas – Until 1987 selling alcohol to be consumed on site, such as at a bar or restaurant was illegal. Today many counties still require bars and restaurants restaurants make 30% of their profits from food to sell alcohol.

Michigan – Beer made at micorbreweries or brewpubs cannot be served on site

New Hampshire – 14% ABV cap on beer.

New York – Beer and liquor cannot be sold at the same store.

North Carolina – 15% ABV cap on beer.

Ohio – 12% ABV cap on beer.

South Carolina – 14% ABV on beer.

West Virginia – 12% ABV cap on beer.

Washington, D.C. – No singles bottle sales permitted.

Although limits as high at 15% ABV may seem permissive enough, it does ban many of the more experimental beers from Belgian brewers and adventuresome craft brewers. Moreover, it confines brewers from exploring uncharted brewing territory. If distilled liquors which are frequently 40-45% ABV are permitted, why limit how strong beer can be? To find out what you can do to help change the beer laws in your state head over to the Brewers Association Beer Activist site.

What do you think of the current beer laws? Have further details what is and isn’t permitted in your state? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.

  • km123

    Im so glad I live in CA

  • gregormendel

    Is that NY law recent? Because I've been to plenty of places, and had plenty of irish car bombs in nyc….

  • I think it means a beer store can't be a liquor store, and vice versa. The wording is a bit odd though.

  • How about a nod to the worst? …Mississippi

    NO beer sold, brewed or transported into the state above 5% ABW (6.25% ABV).
    Homebrewing is illegal.
    44% of the counties are dry for beer.

  • Heischman

    We still have the Blue law here in GA as well. Funny you can't pick a 6 pack on Sunday to drink at home, but you can go the bar have order a bunch of shots and drive home.

    Smart….

  • Heischman

    We still have the Blu Law here in GA, I funny that on Sunday I can't pick up a 6 pack to drink at home, but I can go to the bar and order shots all day sunday, then drive home.

    Smart….

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  • Prohibition leftovers from lifelong politicians. Politicians are beginning to realize that American Breweries can lead to go tax revenue, help create jobs, and create uniquely “American” products. Instead of blaming beer and alcohol for social ills, instead they realize that they can go to a Brewery opening and come off “American” which is always important. I also think, that as China and India begin to increase there beer consumption, fine american craft brews will make excellent export products for our country.

    -The Beer Newb
    http://www.BeerNewb.com

  • Anonymous

    Your statement that Iowa all but bans 5% ABV beer is not true at all. Ice beers which are commonly well above that level are sold at all convenience and grocery stores that sell beer and have been ever since ice beers became widely available back in the ’80s.

  • RobGoblin

    In NYS there are liquor stores,and beer distributor’s. Bar’s usually sell both,but pubs usually just sell beer. I think here,there are beer licenses, and separate liquor licenses. In order to sell both,you need both licenses.Convenience stores and groceries sell beer and wine,but not liquor. You can ONLY get liquor at liquor stores or bars or restaurants WITH bars.Only now did I realize that you can’t buy beer at liquor stores.

  • Mike

    I know this site is old and the article has never been updated, but Michigan does not ban microbreweries/brewpubs from serving what they make on-site. Nor did they when this article was written. If they did, they would be “brewpubs,” would they?

    There was a rule at one time about the volume of beer a brewpub could make and if they could sell it in cans or bottles in addition to draft, but that had to do with the way it was taxed.