by Sylvia Dodge
Action is expected today or Friday in the House General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee on a bill designed to make the sampling of home-brewed beer legal in Vermont.
The bill also seeks to set a limit on the amount of home-brewed beer and wine which Vermonters would be able to produce in a calendar year.
According to Norris Hoyt, commissioner of the state's Department of Liquor Control, the bill was sparked when a group of home-brewers sought to use a Vermont Law School classroom as a location to sample each other's wares.
After researching the idea, the law school found that there are no statutes on the books in Vermont to allow such an activity.
Federal law allows people to brew up to 100 gallons of homemade beer each year, per person, with a limit of 200 gallons per household.
As originally drafted, the bill called for giving Vermonters a legal right to produce in a calendar year no more than 200 gallons of malt beverage or 200 gallons of vinous beverage. Only people of legal age to drink would be allowed to produce the spirits, and it was only to be used for personal consumption.
The home-brewed beer or wine could be offered at an organized tasting event only if no charge were levied, the beverage would only be served to people of legal drinking age, and the Department of Liquor Control would be notified of the event 10 days in advance.
Since originally drafted, several other regulations were added to the bill by Al Elwell, director of enforcement for the Department of Liquor Control.
The additional rules would require a person who has successfully completed a DLC enforcement seminar to monitor all brew tasting events, the beverages be tasted in no more than two-ounce increments for wine or four-ounce increments for beer, and that the tasting be carried out in a delimited area.
Event sponsors found in violation of the law could be fined up to $1,000.
If the home-brew bill is approved by the House committee, it will move to the House floor for further consideration and then move to the Senate. Lawmakers hope to complete the session by mid-April, which leaves little time for the bill to make its way through the legislative process.