Not Everything in Olympia is About the Economy, There's Beer Too


Jerome Seipp loves beer. He's spent 15 years perfecting his recipes for India Pale Ale and Belgian-style brews and uses "cheers" as a signoff. But under state law, he can't bring his beer to a wedding or even the barbecue next door. State law allows someone to transport only one gallon of home brew out of their house; and even then it's only supposed to be for the purposes of tasting in a competition or convention.

But that's not the worst thing about the way state law governs home brewers, explains Seipp, Secretary of the Washington Homebrewers Association. His organization is part of a national group that hosts an annual home brewer convention and competition. Participating requires far more than a growler or two of your favorite brews and since participants can't transport their home brews around this state, the law prevents Washington Homebrewers from offering up Seattle as a host city for the annual beerfest.

So Seipp and his organization turned to state Sen. Ken Jacobsen for help. "The main thing we're trying to do is get Washington laws about homemade beer and wine updated."

Jacobsen is a big fan of the local beer industry. Last year he sponsored a measure to allow dogs in bars. It didn't pass then but last week he reintroduced it. Jacobsen has never tried to brew his own beer, but he loves drinking the local crafts, which are licensed and regulated by the state Liquor Control Board. Craft brewers can sell out of their breweries, in stores, and on the taps at local watering holes. Jacobsen favors Manny's Pale Ale from the Georgetown Brewery.

If home brewers wanted to sell their beers, they would have to become craft brewers and apply for the corresponding licenses and permits. But as it is now, they can't even distribute their creations for free.

Over a couple of brews, Arlen Harris, Executive Director of the Washington Beer Commission, and members of Washington Homebrewers asked Jacobsen to raise the limit to 20 gallons and make it legal to pour glasses for friends and family as well as judges and contest organizers. "If someone's got an art or a skill, I see no reason why they couldn't," Jacobsen says.

As it is, people already bring home brews in excess of the one-gallon limit to parties and gatherings without any cloak and dagger prohibition-era sneakiness. Jacobsen says he suspects it just hasn't occurred to anyone to take another look at the current rules governing home brewing, last amended in 1994.

So yesterday he introduced Senate Bill 5060 to make exactly those changes. The legislation would still prevent someone from actually selling their own brew, but just getting the recipes out there is important for the local craft brewing industry, Jacobsen says. "Home brewers are the nursery for the next crop of microbrewers."

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