JEFFERSON CITY _ When the owner of Homebrewing Supplies told his state senator it was illegal for him to demonstrate how to make beer, the senator did not believe him. Now, legislation that would allow the owner to show how he makes beer is on the governor's desk.
Only upon going into Senate research did Sen. Sam Graves, R-Tarkio, find that his constituent, Alan Ebersold was right. That got the ball rolling for legislation to legalize unlicensed beer and non-distilled liquor manufacturing for personal or family consumption.
With the passage of the bill, a household with at least two adults will be able to produce up to 200 gallons of intoxicating liquor a year without a license.
In 1978 the federal government legalized homebrewing without a license. But Missouri remained one of the four states that does not allow its residents to take advantage of the federal law.
"A lot of people assumed that when the federal government changed the law, that made it legal. But the state law has to change too," said Ebersold, a resident of Union Star, Mo.
"When it came up in Missouri in the mid-80s, Budweiser opposed it," Ebersold said. "Many representatives voted against it. Since then, Budweiser has come to see that homebreweries are no threat to them."
"Anheiser-Busch has even gotten into the microbrewery market with beers such as Red Wolf," Ebersold said.
Despite an absence of opposition, the state government did not address the issue until this session. The issue finally got legislative attention because Ebersold had a problem.
"I was showing my wares at a Sports Show in St. Joseph when a local liquor inspector told me to get my fermenter out of sight," Ebersold said. "The inspector even encouraged me to try and change the law."
"It was legal for me to sell supplies but not to show how to make beer. You had to get a license which cost between $100 and $200," Ebersold said.
After Graves got approval in the Senate, Rep. Dan Hegeman, R-Andrew Co., brought the bill before the House which approved it with little debate.
"The bill allows someone to demonstrate the process of brewing beer and wine," Hegeman said. "We agreed that teaching a class on how to brew would be going a little too far."
"This bill lends itself to humorous interrogation. That's how it was in the House," Hegeman said.
Although many Missourians are members of the American Homebrewers Association based in Boulder, Col., Missouri is among the last four states to legalize homebrewing without a license.
"Today, home brews are as good or better than microbrews," said Ebersold. "Both are light-years ahead of of mass-produced beers," Ebersold said.
The federal government still prohibits unlicensed distilled manufacturing which is required for drinks containing more than 22 percent alcohol.