Gov. Robert Bentley this afternoon signed a bill legalizing home brewing of beer, wine, cider and mead, according to his press secretary. The signing made Alabama the last of the 50 states to pass a law legalizing the activities.
Advocates of the hobby had been anticipating the governor’s signature since the Alabama Senate approved the bill in an 18-7-1 vote on Tuesday.
“I’m definitely happy,” said Anniston resident Steven Shelton. “It’s a great thing.”
The 32-year-old bought malt extract from a shop in Birmingham today to be ready to brew a batch as soon as it became legal. He plans to make an amber ale on Friday.
After Mississippi’s governor signed a bill earlier this spring to legalize home brewing there, attention turned to Alabama as the last state to outlaw the hobby, which the American Homebrewers Association estimates has about 1 million enthusiasts nationwide, about 5,000 of them in Alabama.
The Alabama law took effect immediately with the governor’s signature. Mississippi brewers will have to wait until July, when that state’s new law comes into force.
Stuart Carter, a director of Free the Hops, a group that began advocating in 2006 for looser beer laws in Alabama, said the new law would enhance what he said is a rapidly growing beer culture and industry in the state.
“It’s a subtle thing, but it sends a profound message to the rest of the country,” Carter said, speaking before the governor’s signature. “It may take us a while to get there, but we will get there. We’re not a bleeding-edge state; we’re not a leading-edge state. We like to make sure that it’s going to fit with the culture of Alabama.”
The law allows Alabama residents to brew and keep on hand up to 15 gallons of homemade beer, wine, cider or mead — a drink made with fermented honey — per quarter for personal use, and to take it to competitions and festivals.
Brant Warren, a Huntsville-area resident and member of the group Right to Brew, the grassroots group of hobbyists that advocated for the Alabama bill, said his phone started ringing late this afternoon with the news after Bentley’s press secretary told reporters he’d signed.
“We’ve been working on this for five years,” he said. “I can’t thank enough all the supporters across the state who have worked so hard with the letters, emails and phone calls just to prove this was a priority and prove it to the Legislature.”
Warren spoke with The Star this afternoon after mowing his lawn, a moment that he agreed seemed anticlimactic to be discussing a victory.
“Although it is a good time for a beer,” he said.
Capitol and statewide correspondent Tim Lockette contributed reporting from Montgomery.
Managing Editor Ben Cunningham: 256-235-3541. On Twitter @Cunningham_Star.