Groups crafting new state rules for sampling home brews
By Mike Danahey Sun-Times Mediafirstname.lastname@example.org March 29, 2013 11:34PM
Updated: May 1, 2013 3:45PM
Rules that would allow homebrewers to offer samples of their beers at public events throughout Illinois are getting closer to fruition.
State Rep. Keith Farnham, D-Elgin, said that representatives from homebrewer groups and Illinois beer distributors have been meeting to discuss the matter and have come up with mutually agreeable points for such legislation.
According to Peter J. Rzeminski II of Oswego, who is a member of PALE (Plainfield Ale and Lager Enthusiasts) and the Illinois Homebrewers Association, the homebrewers and the Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois (ABDI) are trying to reach an agreement on the issue.
The groups, he said, “are working through the final details of the draft bill that both sides can agree upon. It is the goal of the IHA to have the language settled and in the hands of Rep. Farnham by Friday (April 5) so he can submit it when he returns to Springfield.”
The IHA is a group of 24 clubs and shops assembled by the Colorado-based American Homebrewing Association. Rzeminski and Richard Placko of Elgin, along with the St. Charles-based Silverado Homebrewing Club, have been working with Farnham’s office, various lobbying and other groups with interest in the bill. Attorneys also are helping the IHA, pro-bono, to craft the language of the draft bill.
“The main drive is to allow homebrew samples to be given away to the public at festivals,” Rzeminski said.
He said the beer distributors’ executive committee voted earlier this year to back the IHA-written bill, provided the bill included certain provisions the distributors felt were necessary. Among its stipulations would be that events hosting homebrewers would pay a $25 permit issued through the Illinois Liquor Control Commission, Farnham said. Homebrew events open to the general public also could not be held inside bars, he noted.
“I have been negotiating with Bob Myers, vice president of Government Relations for the ABDI, on the bill since mid February, and the experience has been a good one from the very start,” Rzeminski said.
With such cooperation, Farnham said he doesn’t anticipate much opposition to passing the new homebrew rules.
Issue at fests
The issue of homebrew sampling came to a head last year.
In April, Peoria International Beer Festival organizers were told by the Illinois Liquor Control Commission that because clubs’ brewing equipment was not regulated and their beer was not taxed, they could not share such brews at the festival. A dozen brew clubs had been a feature for 19 years at the Peoria festival, which is a fundraiser for the local Jaycees and charities.
Members of the Silverado Homebrew Club had been set to provide free tastes of member-made beers at the Aug. 4 Wheaton Ale Fest, but weren’t allowed to do by city officials worried about the legality of the sampling.
PALE had been part of the first Midwest Brewers Fest in 2011, but was not allowed to offer homemade beer at the second one last August. And Silverado also was not allowed to give away samples at the Beer & BBQ @ Bowes fundraiser in Elgin in September, as it had done in 2011.
With the rise in popularity of home brewing, the state’s liquor control commission had started enforcing rules already on the books that allow people to make their own beer and share it with friends, family and guests at their own home parties, but not offer their creations at public events.
Homebrew clubs across the state began working with Farnham’s office last fall on drafting the legislation that, under controlled circumstances, would allow such groups to give away beer samples at events open to the public.