Microbreweries have been popping up around the country since the 1990s. Many beer drinkers have come to prefer the richer, stronger ales, stouts and porters hand-crafted in small batches by microbreweries over the lighter, mass-produced commercial lagers that formerly dominated the beer market. A surge of interest in home-brewing beer has accompanied the microbrewery trend, and many beer aficionados brew their own specialties to share with friends and family. Those who want to brew more than a couple of hundred gallons for personal use must be licensed in most states.
Federal Brewery Qualification
Anyone producing beer for sale, regardless of the quantity, must apply to the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau for a permit for their brewery. A two-person household can produce up to 200 gallons of beer for personal use without requiring a license. You can apply for a permit online, and the entire process usually only takes one or two months. There are no fees for a brewery permit, but you must follow the regulations regarding registration, taxes, labeling and so forth.
Investigate Your State Laws
State laws regarding individual brewing of beer and licensing requirements vary significantly. Some states are very friendly towards home brewers, in other states the process is difficult and can take many months. Doing your homework in advance can save you a lot of time and headaches. In most cases it takes from three months to a year to complete the application process and officially receive your beer brewing license. [4,5,6]
Apply for a State Brewing License
Contact your state alcoholic beverage board to learn how to apply for a brewer's license. Most states at least allow you to submit a preliminary application online, and in some cases, almost the entire process can be handled through the Internet. The cost and documentation required for a brewer's license vary dramatically by state. According to All About Beer magazine, the costs for a license to sell home-brewed kegs and mini-kegs in Washington is only $300, whereas it costs upward of $1,500 to get a Pennsylvania brewer's license.
Local Zoning and Licensing
Research local licensing and zoning requirements for breweries. A few municipalities require local licensing for commercial microbreweries, and almost all require a retail license for consumption of alcohol on premises. A number of cities also have zoning restrictions regarding any facility that is producing alcoholic beverages, and in many cases, the zoning restrictions apply even if no beer is sold or consumed on premises.