Craft Distilling

That’s apparently what they are calling Moonshining these days, and apparently Tennessee is about to make it legal.  Of course, that’s not going to get the feds off your back.  Under federal law, you can make small amounts (up to 200 gallons) per year of wine or beer for your own use, or to give away to others (you can’t sell it).  But there’s no amount of distilling that’s lawful for home use.  To do that, you need a license from the ATF and you need to pay the excise taxes on what you make.

My understanding is that if you want to commercially brew, make wine, or distill, ATF is actually very helpful at getting people set up and in compliance with the federal law.  Reading through a lot of forums on the subject several years ago I found myself thinking “This is not the ATF I knew.”

Speaking of brewing, it’s been quite some time since I’ve contributed toward my 200 gallon limit.  Pretty soon I will need to bring that down to 195 left for the year.  I’m thinking a scottish ale.

10 thoughts on “Craft Distilling”

  1. Some of the finest whiskey I have ever had was “craft distilled” along the NC/TN border. My brother-in-law worked in the area and some of his coworkers gave him a quart or six from their backwoods efforts.

    Now that making ‘shine is legal, helping him sip the remainder of his illicit brew during visits to his family will be a bit less naughty, but no less delightful.

  2. Just started a batch of porter, myself. And 5 gallons of pear cider last week. Next up is some kind of ale (or lager for the wussies with no taste).

  3. Distilling for fuel is, however, legal. You just need to cut the ethanol after with gasoline to make it non-consumable (at least, by any reasonable person).

  4. I don’t think I’ve made anything in two years. I figure if I don’t make something soon, it’s time for me to consider the same thing. But I figure if I ever want to start brewing again, it’ll cost me to re-equip.

  5. Wonder if something along the lines of Tennessee’s and Montana’s Firearms Freedom laws would apply to distillers?

    If it isn’t exported across state lines, how does the Federal government get involved?

  6. Bill:

    Congress has the power to tax, and the licensing requirement is to facilitate payment of the tax. The former is an enumerated power of Congress, and the latter is based on the necessary and proper clause.

  7. Sebastian is absolutely right: everything about the ATF’s influence on alchohol is based on taxation.

    A few years back, I had requested the forms for both an FFL and a small winery license. The FFL form was fairly straightforward, and what you would expect the government to be asking about a dealer. It was also one page…

    The small winery license “form” was actually a many-page book. When I saw it, I expceted all KINDS of things about cleanliness and such. Nope: it was ALL about “how will you diferentiate what has had tax paid, and what hasn’t?”, and so forth. They even wanted a description of the physical security of the location (which the FFL form didn’t request)…

    Needless to say, I gave up the small winery idea (at least for now)…

  8. Ah, yes, I understand the taxation idea, but Montana and Tennessee basically told them to stuff it when it came to gun items manufactured in state and not leaving the state.

    Can the states not do the same with distilleries, or is the taxation thing somehow different than the taxes on silencers, automatic weapons, etc.?

  9. Actually, it’s pretty similar. Congress regulates automatic weapons both by taxing them, and by using its commerce power. But ordinary guns are regulated just with their power over interstate commerce.

    Basically, it’s unambiguous that Congress is allowed to tax, and do anything necessary and proper in order to exercise that enumerated power. But what TN has said is that any gun manufactured within TN, and stays in TN, isn’t subject to Congress’ commerce powers.

    But then again, the TN Firearms Freedom Act is symbolic, largely. Under the current theory of the interstate commerce clause, Congress can reach intrastate activity if suppression of that activity is necessary for Congress to control a national market.

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