Updated: July 30, 2012 6:37PM
If you like to taste home brewed beers and live in Illinois, you better make friends with someone who makes their own. For the state’s liquor control commission has been cracking down on such beer makers offering their brews at festivals and fundraisers.
Case in point: The St. Charles-based Silverado Homebrew Club had been invited to the Wheaton Ale Fest that runs Aug. 4, and members were looking forward to offering patrons samples of their beers.
But Silverado spokesman Richard Placko said the group recently was told by Ale Fest organizers that they won’t be allowed to set up at the event.
“The city of Wheaton is worried that they could run into legal problems due to legislation that limits the ability of homebrewers to pass out samples of their beers,” Placko said.
In Elgin, Parks and Recreation Director Randy Reopelle said the club had been invited again to set up and offer samples at the second Beer and BBQ @ Bowes, a fundraiser for the Recreation Youth Scholarship Fund set for Sept. 15.
“I talked to the Carluccis (who run Porter’s Pub at Bowes Creek Country Club), and the feeling is since Silverado is not selling its beer or in any way making money off the event, and that this is for charity and not to make money, this shouldn’t be an issue,” Reopelle said.
But Friday morning Illinois Liquor Control Commission spokesperson Susan Hofer said having the club offers its beers at the Elgin event would be beyond the scope of the law.
Judging by published reports, the state has started enforcing rules already on the books that allow people to make their own beer and share it with friends, family and guests to their own home parties, but not offer their creations at public events.
“Once you open up offering homebrew to the public, it’s not good. Its use is limited to the home and may not be offered to the general public,” Hofer said. “In 2011 the law more clearly defined what is a craft brew, but home brewing has always been a separate category.”
In April, according to the Peoria Journal Star, Peoria International Beer Festival organizers were told by the Illinois Liquor Control Commission that as clubs’ brewing equipment is not regulated and their beer is not taxed, they could not share such brews at the festival. A dozen brew clubs had been a feature at the Peoria International Beer Festival over the last 19 years. The event is a fundraiser for the local Jaycees and charities.
The rise in the popularity of home brewing has led to similar situations across the nation.
Placko said that the Silverado club does not offer its samples for money. It had been participating in the Great Lakes Brew Fest in Racine, Wisc., where last September homebrewers were disallowed for similar reasons as in Peoria. However, this April Wisconsin legislators made it okay for the home clubs to set up at festivals, so Silverado will be back in Racine this coming fall.
In June, at the last minute home brewers were banned from the St. Louis Brewers Heritage Festival, where they had been offering samples since 2008. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the city’s excise division decided that, since homebrewers do not have licenses to sell their beers, serving their brews at a fest people pay to attend would violate a city statute.
Missouri legislators apparently will be discussing the matter to change state laws, potentially clearing the way to allow homebrewers at festivals in the Show Me State.
According to reports, the Oregon State Fair had been having a competition for homebrewers and winemakers for more than two decades, but the state’s liquor control commission halted it in 2010 per an interpretation of state law. Oregon legislators acted, and the events were back at the fair in 2011.
When told of the situation in Illinois, while realizing the ILCC is enforcing what’s on the books, State Rep. Keith Farnham (D-Elgin) said, “Maybe we should look at changing the law to allow these clubs to be at events.”