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Bill to allow home brewing passes Alabama House

Bob Johnson, Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- The Alabama House on Tuesday passed a hotly contested bill that could remove the state's distinction of being the only one in the nation prohibiting people from brewing beer at home.

The House voted 58-33 to approve the bill by Republican Rep. Mac McCutcheon. The bill passed the House last year, but died in the Senate.

When the Mississippi Legislature recently voted to legalize home brewing, the move left Alabama as the only state where the procedure is illegal. Supporters argued that many in Alabama are already making their own beer.

Opponents urged House members to kill the bill, saying it would make it easier for children to gain access to beer.

The bill now goes to the Senate for debate.

McCutcheon said it doesn't make sense for Alabama to restrict people from pursuing a hobby that the federal government and 49 states allow.

A church-based group, the Alabama Citizen Action Program, is leading the opposition. Executive Director Joe Godfrey has said allowing home brewing would let children see their parents making alcohol.

The Mississippi measure, signed by Gov. Phil Bryant, allows home brewers to make quite a lot of beer each year_100 gallons for households with one person who is over age 21 and 200 gallons if there are two or more people over 21.

That left Alabama alone in banning home brewing, according to the American Homebrewers Association. It estimates there are 1 million home brewers nationwide, with about 5,000 of them in Alabama. That has happened even though Alabama law prohibits an individual from owning the equipment to make alcohol.

The state's liquor control agency, the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, has cracked down on the retail sale of home brewing equipment, but not on people who do it quietly in their homes. At least eight counties — Mobile, Montgomery, Jefferson, Madison, Tuscaloosa, Lee, Russell and Houston — have home brewing clubs.

The bill that passed the House limits home brewers from making more than 15 gallons during a three-month period.

Some House members argue that lawmakers should not be looking for ways to make alcoholic beverages more accessible.

"I think we've got enough people walking around drunk on Monday mornings," said Democratic Rep. Berry Forte of Eufaula.

McCutcheon said his bill would not allow home brewing in counties where the sale of alcoholic beverages is illegal.