While some federal alcohol laws apply throughout the country, the regulation of alcohol production is largely left to each of the 50 states. Home brewing is federally legal, but not all states have made home brewing legal. In some states, including New York, home brewing laws are somewhat ambiguous.
Home brewing was legal for the first 143 years of U.S. history. When prohibition was enacted in 1919, home brewing became illegal. Although bootlegging moonshine was more popular than making home brewed beer, the hobby did survive America's dry period. However, when prohibition was repealed in 1933, no mention was made of re-legalizing brewing at home (although making wine was legalized). In 1979, President Jimmy Carter signed a bill into law which federally legalized home brewing.
The federal law states that home brewing is legal if it is done by an adult 21 years of age or older, and as long he does not exceed 100 gallons of home brew per year. If the adult lives with another adult 21 years of age or older, the maximum amount of home-brewed beer that can be made legally increases to 200 gallons. It is illegal to sell any home-brewed beer. In order to produce more beer or sell your beer, you need to acquire a brewery or a distributor's license.
New York Law
New York state law says that it is illegal for any person to sell any alcoholic beverage without the proper licensing (reinforcing the federal law). Beer is explicitly included and defined (any malt-based, fermented beverage) within this law. New York state law doesn't mention home brewing in any way. Because the law seems to only restrict the selling of alcohol in New York, not the manufacture, many experts -- including the American Homebrewers Association (AHA), one of the preeminent home brewing associations in the world -- claim that home brewing is possibly permitted.
Although the law doesn't state one way or another if it is legal to home brew beer in New York, indications exist that point to the legitimacy of the practice. Several brewing supply stores are allowed to operate within the state of New York, and a number of home brew guilds are based in the state of New York.
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