Due to the many legal regulations on beer sales, selling homemade beer is illegal in the United States if the brew is not made in an established microbrewery with the correct federal, state and local licenses. Economic returns are not immediate and acquiring permission to legally sell homemade beer is a long, expensive process achieved by dedicated brewers who enjoy what they do.
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Distribute samples to friends and family whose feedback helps determine the future success of sales. Be sure that you are pleased with the brew's taste and comfortable with the production process. Asking for donations toward brewing and sales is permitted and helps alleviate the cost of licensing. Be sure that you are in no way selling the beer at this point and that any money given is a free will donation.
Check to see if local or state governments allow home brewing. The few "dry" states and districts in the United States make even private home brewing illegal. If this is the case the business will have be located in a district that does allow the brewing and selling of beer.
Apply for micro business status, which means the operation has fewer than five employees, does not cost more than £22,750 to start and plans on making less than £3,250 annually. This allows the home brewery to apply for the various licenses need to brew and sell beer.
Submit a Brewer's Notice to the Federal Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to claim status as a brewer. This includes registering to pay taxes from sales and compliance with federal laws regulating packaging, warnings and alcohol content.
Apply with the state government for a brewer's license. Most "open" states license every aspect of production and sales, but do not control these processes directly. Meanwhile a "control" state means the state government is a wholesaler and has tighter regulations. This license also includes paying state tax on sales. Visit the state alcohol control board's website or office to find out specific licensing requirements as they vary from state to state.
Apply for a third local city or county license if necessary. Some states allow districts to impose separate laws on beer brewing and sales that must also be complied with.
Sell your beer once all necessary licenses have been obtained. More licenses and agreements may be needed to sell the brew through local stores, which is why most microbrewery businesses sell directly through their headquarters. Websites, local beer competitions and word of mouth all spread awareness of the merits of your particular beer.
Tips and warnings
- Investigate other microbrewery operations and inquire about the necessary licenses and application process they needed to get started.
- Check all local and state laws throughly to be sure licenses are in place for legal production and sale.
- The process to obtain licensing to legally sell beer is long and should only be attempted by serious brewers who do not expect immediate return.
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