A bill that would legalize homebrewing of beer and wine in Alabama passed the Alabama House today after an hours-long filibuster by a dedicated group of House Republicans.
If passed by the Alabama Senate and signed by the governor, the bill, House Bill 354, would allow homebrewers ages 21 and up to brew or make up to 15 gallons of beer or wine in a quarter—about one five-gallon batch of beer or wine a month. Homebrewing is currently legal on the federal level, but Alabama is one of two states that does not allow the hobby.
Reps. DuWayne Bridges (R-Valley), Kurt Wallace (R-Maplesville), Richard Laird (R-Roanoke) and several others fought the bill by speaking for 10 minutes and then offering small amendments, which the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mac McCutcheon (R-Capshaw), quickly moved to kill.
Laird, noting that supporters of the bill often referred to homebrewing as hobby, offered an amendment that would require homebrewers to be at least 60 years old. He also proposed an amendment requiring homebrewers obtain a license and pay a $100 fee annually. Rep. Mac Buttram (R-Cullman) suggested limiting homebrewing to 15 gallons a year. Bridges attempted to make brewing more than the allowed amount a felony.
The House voted to table each of those amendments.
Many of the bill’s opponents were opposed to any expansion of access to alcohol. Wallace told the House, “Anything I can do to kill alcohol, I’m going to do.” Rep. Richard Baughn (R-Lynn) approached the podium while members of the House chanted “Vote! Vote! Vote!” He said he has had two beers in the last 25 years. “I was raised in a Christian home and I was taught that any form of alcohol is bad,” Baughn said.
Bridges was fond of the slippery slope argument.
“If we don’t stop now, there’s going to be—next it’s marijuana,” Bridges said. “And it isn’t going to be 60 gallons, it’s going to be 150 gallons or more.” He also suggested that this bill could allow for 120 million gallons of beer to be brewed annually.
In 2011, McCutcheon’s homebrew bill won the “Shroud Award,” given every year to the deadest piece of legislation offered in the legislature. Bridges referenced that award in the floor debate, and said it was awarded to the worst bill of the session.
“This bill wasn’t the worst bill, it was the deadest bill, and I’m a firm believer in the resurrection,” McCutcheon quipped in response.
The bill passed with 44 aye votes and 33 no votes. It now goes to the Alabama Senate.