Understand the Legal restrictions on Home Brew Alcohol in India
Understand the Legal restrictions on Home Brew Alcohol, wines and beer in India

Is home brewing legal in India? The answer is YES. It has some exceptions though. They are:

  1. Dry states and districts do not permit alcohol production. It is not allowed to ferment homemade wine or brewing beer is not in these places.
  2. Distillation is banned without a proper license as it is dangerous (methanol poisoning, explosion risks).
  3. Commercial sale is banned for any alcoholic wine or beer unless requisite taxes and permits are in place.

Refer to our FAQ for more specific answers.

Yes, home brewing is legal in India. But you need to follow three golden rules:

  1. No Distillation
  2. No commercial activity/sale
  3. No crossing of state boundaries.

Alcohol is primarily regulated by the State Excise Department. Most states have an excise department website where you can get more details on the regulations and taxes. As long as you don’t live in a dry state (Gujarat, Bihar, Nagaland, etc.) and stockpile less than permissible limits you are safe.

If your product has <0.5% alcohol at the time of sale, then it will not come under excise regulations and can be commercialized. That being said, FSSAI has jurisdiction on food safety and standards. Any food product produced commercially needs to adhere to FSSAI norms. They have accredited laboratories all over the country that can help you with testing and compliance for non-alcoholic probiotics as well.

So many products around you are fermented: curd, cheese, black tea, coffee, olives, bread, and pickle. Not all fermentation is alcohol.

For centuries, fermentation was the method of choice for the preservation of food, purification of water, and enhancing the taste & nutritional value of the food ingredients. Making alcohol and getting drunk was never the central obsession of society. It had more benign purposes like food preservation in the absence of refrigerator and preservatives.

You can make several probiotic food recipes like pickles, cheese, curd, vinegar, kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, idli/ dosa batter, or even bread at home which are fermented foods and do not contain any alcohol.

Refer to this link for further details on FSSAI compliance on 0.3% ethyl alcohol permissible limits in your probiotics that you are marketing.

Home Distillation a.k.a. moon-shining without a license is illegal in India (and most parts of the developed world). At Arishtam, we don’t stock any distillation columns, moonshine stills, or help with tutorials on distillation.
Some Ayurveda practitioners and makers of natural aromatic oil do distill essential oils from their brews but it is not with the intent of extraction of alcohol. That being said, there are lesser restrictions on wine, beer, and other non-distilled fermentations.

You cannot engage in the commercial sale of your homebrew liquor without paying the requisite taxes and holding licenses/ permits. This includes hosting paid events where the homebrew is served or encouraging your patrons to pay for your ingredients or entry fee. Even bartering/ exchanging alcohol for goods and services is considered as a notional sale and is illegal.

Non-alcoholic ferments like probiotic Kombucha, ginger ale, kefir, miso, etc. can be sold if your finished product has an alcohol concentration of less than 0.5% v/v. If you want to commercially market a non-alcoholic probiotic ferment, please visit any of the FSSAI testing laboratories for the requisite lab test reports and documentation. I have found ICAR, Ministry of Agriculture also very helpful in research and development for indigenous recipes.

Do not try to cross state boundaries with alcohol. This includes road, air, train, etc. Most states have checkpoints and can unnecessarily harass/ penalize the defaulters.

Even sending bottles and wine bladders via post/courier is not easy. Firstly most courier companies will not accept liquids and misdeclaration is an offense. Then you need permissions (NOC) from the state excise of the state where you are dispatching the beverage to. Homebrewing is strictly for personal consumption.

Certain states esp. Gujarat, Bihar, Manipur, Lakshadweep, Nagaland, and certain holy/ religious districts/ regions/ places of the country have been marked as dry states for various reasons. Manufacture of alcohol is restricted to purely industrial use only, that too with prior permission in these regions. Please check the local laws before proceeding. However, except for the dry states/ regions, we are yet to encounter any law that explicitly prohibits individuals from home brewing for personal consumption in limited batch size.

Unlike Europe or the US, India has no annual quota or limits on the quantity of alcohol (wine, beers, ciders, and undistilled beverages) you can home-brew. Instead, the Indian Excise Department has put restrictions on the quantity that can be stocked at any given point of time.

Each state has its limits on what is constituted as commercial quantity. As long as you are brewing/stocking below this threshold and don’t reside in a Dry state, you should be safe. I am yet to encounter any law/ government memo limiting the number of batches or number of home-brew parties one can throw, but checking with the local officials is always advisable before you start taking this hobby seriously. Permissible limit to stock as per some state laws are:

  • Karnataka: 18.5 liters of beer or 9 liters of wine.
  • Tamil Nadu: 12 bottles of beer 650ml or 12 bottles of wine 750ml (It is governed by Tamil Nadu Alcohol (Possession for Personal Consumption) Rules, 1996)
  • Delhi: 18 liters of wine, beer or cider
  • Punjab: 1 case of beer (more with an L-50 permit issued lifetime or annually.
  • Haryana: 12 bottles of beer or wine (more with L-50 permit)
  • Rajasthan: 12 bottles of beer or wine
  • Himachal Pradesh: 48 bottles of beer or wine
  • Goa: 24 bottles of beer

No state in India has legalized home distillery or home alcohol distillation kit. Possession, operating, or dealing with distillation equipment without a license is illegal. However, you can obtain exceptions for medical purposes, herbal extracts, perfumes, and Ayurveda medicines. If you are planning to get a distillation license, then buy a stainless steel distillation kit. Modifying pressure cookers to make crude makeshift stills can land you in trouble.

Consuming alcohol in public places, while driving, encouraging minors to drink, etc. is unlawful under Section 268 of IPC. Also, try to be in harmony with the religious sentiments of the neighborhood. If your home brewing hobby is resulting in public nuisance or hardships to your neighborhood then it might lead to a problem. Fermentation is a natural transformation of food through microbes. It makes the food more desirable and prevents spoilage. Talk to them and explain it to them.

Undistilled homebrews are reasonably safe and a 7,000-year-old art that pre-dates civilization. However, death and injury due to negligence, rash action can lead to a case under IPC 304A or worse homicide. Not to mention, explosions/ accidents that can happen during amateur distillation, are considered terrorist activities.

Be careful about exposure to minors. The legal age to drink varies by state (Delhi for example has set it to a high threshold of 25 years). Instigating minors to drink or not preventing (inaction) them to source alcohol is an offense.

Homebrew is the most ancient technology known to mankind. It was practiced by cavemen, even before writing, agriculture or religion was discovered. Hence, it is an easy and safe food transformation.

On smell, trust me, if it smells offensive then it is composting and is not edible fermentation. My fermenter sits comfortably on top of my refrigerator which is in the middle of my living room and neither my wife, kids, or my guests ever complained. On the contrary, you get a nice fruity smell similar to one from a ripe fruit orchard.

One of the easiest ways to get your toes wet in this hobby would be the hooch recipe or toddy recipe. They can be practiced with simple ingredients found in one’s kitchen and do not need any investment.

Hooch is a crude American term for any unfinished, freshly fermented wine or alcoholic beverage. It has a negative connotation because the product is often homemade with primitive fermentation techniques and hence equivalent to Desi Daru (देसी दारू) As per excise department, it is also categorized under the same category.

Toddy is the Indian term for Indian country/village wines which are not made from a traditional recipe i.e. not following a European grape wine recipe or a British/American apple cider recipe. This Indian traditional alcoholic beverage has a variety of medical, religious, psychological, and even psychedelic effects. Like the Native American Indian culture, Toddy making is acceptable (or overlooked by authorities) as part of a traditional religious and cultural practices. We tried to map a few on this map of India.

Wine, on the other hand, is a more refined sophisticated beverage that can be bottled and stored. Hooch and Toddy need to be consumed within a day or two or it will become too sour and dry for consumption. They typically take 4-8 weeks to make compared to 2-3 days for toddy. Most wines are aged for 6 months to two years before it is ready for serving while country beer/hooch/toddy is served fresh.

Brix-chart-for-various-fruits-for-wine
Brix-chart-for-various-fruits-for-wine

Some people confuse Toddy with Feni (Cashew Fruit Alcohol), Mahua (Mahua Flower/cake Alcohol) and Handia (Rice Alcohol). The sugar and starch source for all these 4 traditional Indian Beverages are different. Today fermentation techniques are made more sophisticated. As a result more and more people are consuming them in beer or wine form rather than distilled spirit. Rice Wine is also hazy white, so it is often sold as Toddy. However distilled spirits from these fruits and flowers are closer to Indian Mezcal or Tequila.

YES, it is completely legal to make wine and hard apple cider at home in India for personal use except in states where it is banned like Bihar, Gujarat, Lakshadweep, Manipur, and Nagaland. Just remember the following 4 golden rules:

  • Do not sell alcohol or engage in commercial activity without license permits and tax approvals.
  • Do not try to distill into brandy, vodka, whiskey, rum, gin, etc.
  • Keep your batch size small (below state-specific restrictions on how much alcohol you can ferment or store under your roof).
  • Also, don’t try to ship alcohol or cross state boundaries.

No law states in India that you cannot brew beer or make wine at home but this is only for personal use and not for commercial purposes. For a detailed list of regulations refer here.

Freeze Distillation is a misnomer. There is no boiling, formation of methanol, flammable (explosive) fumes production. Hence there is not much concern for authorities. There is also no law that explicitly bans keeping alcoholic beverages in freezer. However do check with local laws before distillation.

Freeze distillation is essentially keeping the cider, sugar-wash, beer or wine in the freezer. At about -10 Degree Celsius, the beverage becomes a slush. Alcohol acts as an anti-freeze so the freezing point is lower than water. As the temperature is further reduced, more and more water crystalizes into ice and residual liquid turns into higher concentration ethanol. We repeat although this technology is called Freeze Distillation, it actually means Fractional Freezing. The freezing point of ethanol is -115 oC. However if you are able to achieve -30degree Celsius, then only one can remove substantial water from your beverage.

% of EthanolFreezing Point oC
00
10-4
20-9
30-15
40-23
50-32
60-37
70-48
80-59
90-73
Freezing point of Water Alcohol Mixture

Glacial Acetic Acid

For school projects a similar and much easier experiment to follow is making distilled acetic acid at home from vinegar. It is called Eisessig or ice vinegar. Vinegar forms ice like crystals when kept at 4 Degree Celsius. Although the water and ethanol gets left behind, the tartness of your cider and vinegar reduces as the oxidized ethanol gets separated in form of white crystals of acetic acid. One of the reason why ethanol always recommend cold crashing of home brew is improvement in clarity and taste (less sour) due to this simple inexpensive process.

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Pouring the illegal moonshine down the drain
Pouring the illegal home brew moonshine wine down the drain

Note: The literature mentioned here should not be constituted as legal advice or instigation to break the laws. The advice mentioned here is only to explain the laws and regulations in a simple language and should not be constituted as complete. Please consult a qualified legal & tax attorney before fermenting wines or beer.

The aim of Arishtam is to educate you on the ancient process, best safe practices, and nudge you towards reviving the ancient traditions and recipes. Fermentation wines or craft beers should not be an occult art or a mystery practiced by a few but should be a democratic movement for the wise masses. Most enthusiasts have many questions on the safety and legality about fermentation at home. Here, we try to address some of the concerns.

If you are a first-time brewer then browse our recipe section and try out your first home brewing kit,