Hobbyist Bill Passes

By Hannah Hoffman

Senate Bill 444 had its first hearing on Feb. 10 before the Senate Business Transportation and Economic Development Committee and garnered strong support within the Senate, passing on Feb. 22.

The bill overturns a previous ruling by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission making it illegal to transport homemade wine, beer or fermented fruit juice and consequently made amateur tastings and contests unlawful. The previous law had a detrimental impact on county fairs, the Oregon State Fair and local festivals that involve these types of amateur beverages.

SB 444 changes the law to allow amateur brewers and vintners to transport their wine and beer. It also permits competitions with prizes, makes it legal to serve homemade wine and beer at club meetings and to bring these homemade alcoholic beverages into places that are already licensed by the OLCC, such as bars, pubs and breweries.

The bill keeps Oregon in compliance with federal laws regulating hobby winemaking and brewing. The federal government allows states to set their own regulations regarding the issue, so the passage of the bill wouldn’t overstep any federal bounds.

The Oregon Home Brewers Alliance lobbied hard for the bill. Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-South Lane and North Douglas counties, sponsored the bill but brought 16 senators and nine representatives in agreement with him.

Associations like the Oregon Home Brewers Alliance worked hard to get the bill passed. The OHBA issued a statement that said the group also worked with the OLCC as well as the legislature. The statement said the OLCC did not oppose the bill or efforts to change the law.

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Hannah Hoffman is a reporter for the News-Register.

To see commentary on SB 444, click here.

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