Most first timers have many legal apprehensions about their first fermentation batch. Here we try to address some of the concerns.

  1. Not all fermentation is alcohol. For centuries, fermentation was the method of choice for preservation of food, purification of water and enhancing the taste & nutritional value of the food ingredients. Rather than getting drunk, the society was obsessed towards food preservation in absence of refrigerator and preservatives so that they could survive the next drought or winter. You can make pickles, cheese, curd, vinegar, Kombucha, Kefir, Sauerkraut, idly/dosa bater or even bread at home that is fermentation and does not contain any alcohol.
     

  2. Although laws about homebrewing varies from state to state, three golden rules are sacrosanct:

    1. Nowhere in India, can you legally distill spirits/alcohol without holding a license for the same. Some people esp. ayurvedic 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 but its medicinal properties only.

    2. You cannot engage in sale of your homebrew liquor. Yes, that includes hosting paid events where homebrew is served or encouraging your patrons to pay for your ingredients. Even bartering/exchanging your alcohol for goods and services is considered as a notional sale and is not allowed.

    3. Don’t try to cross state boundaries with alcohol. This includes road, air, train etc. Most states have check points and can unnecessary harass/penalize you.
       

You can read our interview in Mint newspaper on the same. In short, no distillation and no sale of alcohol without license. Trying to be creative and finding loopholes will only cause agony.
 

  1. 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. Please check with the local laws before proceeding, however except for the dry states/regions, I am yet to encounter any law that explicitly prohibits individuals from homebrewing for personal consumption in limited batch size.
     

  2. Most states have excise department website which has details on permissible limits for country beer and homemade wines. Unlike the US, the restrictions seems to limit the maximum quantity that a person can possess at any given point of time without license/permits rather than how much they can produce in a year. Therefore, they might look a bit odd or difficult to comprehend. If in doubt, please check with the local laws or experts before making your first batch. Karnataka for example allows for 18.5 liters of country beer and/or 7 liters of wine at any given point of time without need of an explicit license to store.
     

  3. Although there is no legal restrictions on sale on non-alcoholic fermented food and beverage. I would strongly advise you to obtain a FSSAI license before making a career switch. If your finished product as alcohol concentration of less than 0.5-1% v/v then FSSAI, trademark & GST are considered adequate in most regions. A CoA (Certificate of Analysis) may also be needed
     

  4. However if your homebrewing 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.  Also try not to consume in public places, moving vehicles, in front of minors as you can be booked under Section 268 of IPC. Also try to be in harmony with the religious sentiments of the neighborhood.

  5. Undistilled homebrew are reasonably safe and a 7 thousand 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. BTW this also includes explosions/accidents during distillation as well.

  6. Be careful about 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 even not preventing them to source alcohol is an offense. 

  7. Most information is sourced from this blog post. The literature mentioned here should not be constituted as a legal advice or instigation to break the laws. Please consult a qualified legal & tax attorney before fermenting. Also do read this interesting expose by Outlook on indian liquor industry. The rampant use of molasses, dyes, color and flavoring agents is the primary reason why patrons of Arishtam.com are seeking a healthy alternative.