We all know the classic movie scene, a couple of underage teenagers trying to get booze for the party so that all their ‘dreams’ will come true. One option is the risky fake ID, but another way is to brew your own beer despite being younger than 21.
So, we all know that in the US it’s illegal to drink alcohol before your 21st birthday, and other countries have their own rules, but what if you just bought malt grains, hops, and yeast. Could you do that and avoid the strong arm of the law?
You can buy most brewing supplies under the age of 21, ingredients included. The laws across the states say you can’t consume or brew alcohol but rarely talk about buying the actual products. There isn’t alcohol in the supplies so, it’s hard to enforce, some shops will still require you to be 21.
So, there you have it. You can more than likely buy all the ingredient you need in order to brew beer at home, but that’s just the beginning of the story!
Whether you are 21 or not you probably want to know where you can get products. After you buy the supplies you may be curious about what is legal and illegal in the different parts of the states when it comes to the actual brewing and consumption. I will go over all this in the rest of this article.
Disclaimer: I do not encourage anyone to drink before legally allowed to, however, I feel that brewing beer with a family member and learning about the hobby is a great way to develop personal skills.
Where to buy brewing supplies and is it legal for minors?
You can buy brewing supplies online or at a local homebrewing shop. I always recommend supporting local businesses, but sometimes the area you live in they may not have any.
Also, while it is not illegal to sell supplies to a minor (on a federal level) some states such as Alabama state that “is that it is unlawful for any person less than 21 years of age to attempt to purchase, possess, or transport any apparatus or equipment used to produce beer, mead, cider, or table wine.”
Now, this law is very rarely if ever enforced and what a brewing supply constitutes is up for debate. This doesn’t mean that it can be enforced if they so choose, so buy at your own risk.
Homebrewing shops will not sell the supplies to minors usually when they feel pressure in an area from different organizations. Here is a finder for where you can buy supplies from a homebrew supply shop near you: link
Some online shops (very few) will ask for ID. One of the biggest retailers of homebrewing kits, Mr. Beer will sell to anyone and they state ”However, we have found it to be an unenforceable mandate for all retailers to only sell to legal adults”. They say that it could be for a gift and it is not illegal in every state for a minor to brew, which is correct and a common consensus.
When you are shopping online (if under 21) check first before you go through the whole process as they will wait to ask for ID until you get to the payment page.
I recommend the following online retailers:
You can also check out my full article on where to buy brewing supplies in the USA.
Some bigger supermarkets combine with hardware stores will have all that you need as well. You would just need to shop around and piecemeal your kit together along with the ingredients.
You can use white sugar and regular yeast to brew, but it may not give you the best results, read more here about brewing with bread yeast in my article.
What supplies can you and can you not buy for brewing when under 21 in the US?
While you can usually always get your hands on malt grains, hops, yeast, etc. when you are under the age of 21 it may be a bit harder to get the actual brewing equipment.
When you are buying the supplies for brewing these things can be classified in other categories such as cooking or animal feed. While there is not much you can repurpose a brew kettle for it is basically just a big stockpot.
Even though it may seem like a boring task, you can usually find what you need on the internet legally or at another shop. For instance, carboys are classified as laboratory glassware, and this way it would not be illegal for a minor to purchase.
Think outside the box, a wort chiller as well is scientific equipment or you could just buy copper tubing and DIY if you were so inclined. None of my original equipment was actually designed specifically for brewing and it all functioned fine until I upgraded.
Can you brew beer if you are under 21 in the USA?
This is a very tricky subject and while I am not a lawyer I have done quite a bit of research and found some states where, yes it is illegal for you to brew beer as a minor. These states are Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Utah.
Now this is not an all-inclusive list and other states have laws pertaining if you can brew at home and their laws go by things like abv (alcohol by volume), the number of people in the house under 21, what type of alcohol is being fermented, etc.
I go into a lot more detail about the legality of brewing beer in the USA and how much you can brew in this article here.
Having spent time looking through the documents, they all have it worded differently and it can be quite confusing if you are worried about the laws in your state and or want to learn more I recommend joining a local brewers group and going to this site to read your states specific laws.
Can you brew beer either on your own or with an older friend?
Technically, you can’t brew beer as a minor but again it’s another gray area. If you are with a parent or family member usually yes you can brew beer but by law you shouldn’t be drinking it until you are 21.
The interesting thing is that all the laws about brewing refer to how much you can brew over the age of 21, but none of them mention minors.
Look above at the website to check for your state. Again, I’m not a lawyer, but I would say that brewing with a responsible friend or family member is not going to get you in trouble especially if you don’t openly consume the beer!
Can you brew beer in your bedroom?
I would not recommend this, but I have brewed beer in my bedroom before. I assume that there are two reasons you might want to brew beer in your bedroom, one is just you don’t have a lot of space to play with, the other is that you don’t want Mom and Dad to know.
If you were to do the whole process in your room it would be difficult and dangerous since you would need some sort of heating mechanism such as a hot plate.
The main issue here is that your average hot plate, in my experience, isn’t going to give you enough heat. At the very least it’s not going to be efficient and lead to a longer brew day. Also, using any sort of open flame in your bedroom isn’t a good idea. Propane burners also release a fair amount of Carbon monoxide, so you should always use them outside.
So, I would say that your mashing and boiling should happen either in the kitchen or outside using a propane burner.
Another thing to consider when brewing beer in your kitchen, especially if you want to keep it on the quiet, is that it smells. I love the smell of hops and am quite happy with it stinking out my entire apartment. My wife is less pleased.
So I limit my brew days to when she is out for the day or has really pissed me off and I want to get back at her in a passive-aggressive way….not good advice!
The parts that I have done in my bedroom before are the fermenting and bottling process. I did use plastic for both processes, in case the beer expanded due to the fermentation process or carbonation in the bottle.
Using glass carboys or bottles could be risky in your bedroom, and I recommend you stick to plastic if you absolutely have to ferment and store beer in your room.
In fact, fermenting beer in your closet is a great way to keep it in the dark and, during the winter months, nice and warm. Bottling is also possible, but just make sure you don’t spill anything because that beer will be sticky!
How expensive is it to brew beer and how much will you get?
If your goal is just to brew a batch of beer and drink it alone (but hopefully with a few friends), this can be done for around $70-$150.
All you really need is a brewing bucket, a bubbler, a siphon hose, a grain steeping bag, priming sugar, bottles, yeast, hops, and caps (carboy, hydrometer optional but recommend). These things are not hard to come to buy and relatively cheap. You can usually even buy kits which may even be cheaper than buying the pieces individually.
For a total beginner, I really recommend the Northern Brewer Starter kit as it’s a great kit that comes with most of the kit you’ll ever want for home brewing. The bottling buckets are also easy to stack away, which is great if they need to be hidden for any reason! Check out the prices on Amazon.
Another great kit for beginners is the Premium Home Brewers kit from Morebeer.com. It comes with absolutely everything you’ll need from a brew kettle to a wort chiller and everything in between. The price tag may be higher than your average beer recipe kit, but you will probably never need to buy another piece of kit again. It’s really a great bargain and I’m fairly sure that even minors can shop there!
If you are comparing the cost making your beer to the cost of a high-end microbrew, then homebrewing is actually quite cost-effective. For example, if you spend even $50.00 on supplies it is not hard to brew beer in a 5-gallon batch which should give you roughly 2 cases of beer. That is about $6.00 a six-pack where you will pay double or triple for that in the store.
The other benefit is that the beer, once you get the hang of brewing, is going to be much better than the cheapest beer you can buy from the store. For more information on the cost-effectiveness of homebrewing, check out my case study here.
Is it legal to brew beer in all 50 states?
It sounds like a crazy question but it’s only been until fairly recently that you can brew beer in all 50 states and other jurisdictions.
Mississippi was the last state to legalize it in 2013, and so now you can brew beer at home in all 50 states. It may be legal in Federal law but each state, county, or municipality has its own set of rules and regulations that homebrewers need to follow to make the process totally legal.
I was actually really surprised at some of the rules and regulations, especially when it came to how much you can brew at home and who has the right to brew it, I’m talking to you Texas! I actually wrote up everything I found out in my article here.
Can you drink beer with your family members?
Shockingly 45 states have some sort of exemptions in their drinking laws that do allow people under the age of 21 to drink at home. But it must be within the company of family members.
While some states make exceptions for when minors may consume alcohol, others make the exceptions for possession, but none especially for homebrewing. To be honest, it is a mess to decipher the exact laws and working for example Arkansas, have no exceptions for underage possession or consumption. Though they allow parents to give alcohol to their kids.
Most of these exceptions to the legal drinking age are for these activities:
- Religious activities
- Educational purposes
- Lawful employment
- Parental, guardian, or spousal consent
- Law enforcement purposes
- Medical reasons
The reasons above are for consumption and in some cases handling and brewing alcohol. So just because you are not 21 does not mean that you cannot make and try your brew. Do your research, you can read more about the exact rules on consumption of alcohol here.
Can you sell beer that you brew at home?
For general purposes no, you cannot sell the beer you brew, you will need to get a license to sell it. Even when just making it at home there is usually a limit to how much you can make over the year before you need to get a license so check with local laws. For most states, it’s 100 gallons per person, but that’s for brewers over 21!
There are other ways to make money off your skillset though besides just selling your beer to others. A popular option is to trade or barter, you would be surprised how much good beer is worth. If you get good at it teaching courses or even get hired as a brewer. You do have options, read more here in my article about how to make money off your skills.