LEGAL IMPLICATIONS

December 4, 2019

 

Copied with permission from https://www.arishtam.com/product-page/aristam-homebrewing-guide and https://www.amazon.in/Arishtam-HomeBrew-Probiotics-Indias-homebrew-ebook/dp/B07WSXSCQY

 

 

The aim of this website/community is not to incite you to break laws or endanger the health. Its purpose is to educate you on the ancient process, best practices and nudge you towards reviving the ancient traditions. Fermentation 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.

 

  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. Making alcohol and getting drunk was never the central obsession of the society. It had more benign purposes like food preservation in absence of refrigerator and preservatives. You can make pickles, cheese, curd, vinegar, kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, idli/ dosa batter or even bread at home which are fermented foods and does not contain any alcohol.

 

  1. Although laws about home brewing varies from state to state, three golden rules are sacrosanct:

 

  1. Nowhere in India, can we legally distill spirits/ alcohol without holding a license for the same. 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.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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. Filing an RTI could help you get clarity on the applicable laws. Most states in India limit the storage of alcohol and the batch size. They rarely put a limit on number of batches you make in a year and how many homebrew parties you throw. Make sure your batch size is less than the commercial quantity prescribed by the state to keep the jurisdiction of excise at bay.

 

  1. Although there are no legal restrictions on sale of non-alcoholic fermented food and beverages. I would strongly advise you to obtain a FSSAI license before making a career switch. Keep proper documentation & accredited lab test reports handy to prove that your finished product as alcohol concentration of less than 0.5% v/v. FSSAI website has a long list of accredited labs that can provide necessary support to test the batches and prove that they are free from contaminants.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

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. The idea of this book is to introduce the reader with the diversity of fruits, grains, herbs, flowers and spices that can be explored for brewing. We spend a lot of time to inoculate our minds with the various fusion possibilities of this art form and unleash creativity.

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