Brew your own beer: are you allowed to?

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Brew your own beer: are you allowed to?

When it comes to the legality of homemade alcohol, beer, schnapps and wine like to be thrown into a mash tun. Sounds obvious, but it’s not. While a license is usually required for distilling, and anyone can make wine in large quantities at will, beer is a special case from a legal point of view, at least in Germany.

So one may? In principle : Yes. While in Austria and Switzerland the production of beer for personal use is strictly regulated, following the example of Pastor Nolte (who, as we know, did what he wanted), in Germany, of course, it goes!, one almost wants to say not without official blessing and rules. Therefore, I will only deal with the German regulations in more detail below.


Whether there is any comprehensible reason at all today for permitting unlimited quantities of wine to be made at home without objection and without conditions, while at the same time subjecting the production of beer for personal use to detailed rules, may be confidently doubted. Especially when you consider that in most cases the additional work for customs employees is not offset by any additional revenue from beer tax and the amounts, if any, are usually in the single-digit euro range, even if they are high. Anyway, there are rules for making beer as a hobby brewer, and we follow them nicely. After all, one does not want to deprive a service of its work.

Basically, one thing is important: to brew beer at home for your own use, you don’t need an official permit, you are allowed to do it in any case. Only about that like you should know, so that you do not do anything wrong.

Permitted amounts

200 liters per calendar year may be brewed by any citizen in Germany, without any tax obligation. It is irrelevant whether it is a light diet beer or a Doppelbock. The free quantity applies per person and only to beer produced in one’s own household or in a non-commercial community brewery.

Beer tax

As soon as you produce more than this free quantity, you are subject to beer tax. Currently (2010) the tax rate is 0.787 euros per hectoliter and degree Plato. However, there are reductions for microbreweries; up to 5.000 hectoliters (that is 500.000 liters!) the tax rate is 56% and therefore 0,4407 Euro. The tax regulations for brewing beer are derived from the Beer Tax Act.

In the meantime, the customs has expanded its website and provides all the important information about the beer tax in an easy-to-understand way. You can obtain a form for the tax declaration from the relevant main customs office or, like all tax forms nowadays, as a convenient online form with print function. The beer tax is calculated on the one hand according to the quantity produced and on the other hand according to the beer strength in the form of the original wort content (rounded down to the full number, which is why, by the way, commercial beers are often produced with extract contents such as 11.9°P).

Registration and official requirements

The bridal activity must the responsible main customs office be notified in time. This means that you have to announce your brewing project at least before the first brewing day with sufficient advance notice. For this purpose, an informal message such as:

I hereby declare that I intend to produce beer for my own use as an amateur brewer. For the first time, this will be done on [date.

If you can foresee that you will not brew more than 200 liters per year for the time being, it is best to point this out explicitly. About the necessity of further declarations ("Brauanzeigen") the main customs office gives you with the notice about the knowledge corresponding conditions. Experience shows that these vary from customs office to customs office, sometimes even between individual officers. Examples include:

  • The one-time registration is enough for the customs office. You will be instructed to report separately only quantities exceeding the annual allowance and, if necessary, to report them to the brewery. to file a beer tax return.
  • It is sufficient to register once, but you will be required to keep a beer tax book in which you will record all brews with date, quantity and strength. Sometimes you receive official forms for this; independently of it it is recommended to document the own production achievement from the outset. I have created an Excel template for this purpose, which also includes a filling-in aid for a possibly necessary tax return.
  • You will be required to brew every batch "on time" view. Some customs offices even insist on the letter form here, although this is becoming increasingly rare in the course of some administrative reforms in favor of electronic mail.

If one rule can be derived from all customs requirements known to me, then at most this one: Talking helps. Since hobby brewers are still a comparatively rare phenomenon, the chances are that your customs officer has never had to deal with the subject in this form before. Ideally, you should announce your request in a friendly telephone call and refer to agreements that you are familiar with (for example, through an acquaintance or from a previous place of residence), such as the keeping of a beer tax book when the allowance is exceeded. With many officials you can negotiate in this way a regulation, which saves both sides unnecessary bureaucratic effort and on which you can subsequently rely in the course of the formal registration. However, you can just as well also refer to a "more eager" brewer Customs officers advised.

My most entertaining customs experience so far was when an office sent me home a beer tax officer who contacted his office after inspecting my "production equipment." (which stood at that time in the cellar shelf of a rented apartment) and a merry conversation for a quite unbureaucratic regulation used and this (unheard of!) with the negligibility of my production quantities justified.

"Purity Law"

The regulations that result from what is known as the "German Purity Law" (Reinheitsgebot) transfigured beer law, you can save yourself the trouble. Once, because in its present form it is complete nonsense and, above all, because, fortunately, it is not binding on us hobbyists. So if you ever feel like an export beer with a serving of fresh bioroggene or a refreshing Belgian-style Kirschweizen, go for it.

Sell your own brew?

A question, which from experience nearly each hobby brewer asks itself sometime in some way. Basically, the customs office does not care if you sell your beer, as long as you properly declare and pay the corresponding beer tax. Of course, there are no free quantities or reductions for commercial brewing, and it may well be that conditions are imposed on you, for example for the place of storage of beer that has become taxable because it is intended for sale.

Beside the fiscal ones there are naturally further legal questions, which are important for the commercial beer production they have in a portal, which addresses itself to laymen, actually nothing to look for and are only briefly touched upon.

Craft Law

Not least thanks to Europe, there has been some relief here recently. For example, for pub breweries, where the landlord brews exclusively for his own needs and where the focus is on the Inn (and not on the brewery), there is no obligation to employ a brewmaster or a skilled brewer or to be one of them as a landlord yourself. In classic breweries, however, this obligation continues to exist.

Food Law

Of course, a brewery that produces for sale must meet certain requirements that do not apply to an amateur brewer who brews for his own needs. This concerns in particular the plant layout, the devices for regular cleaning and storage facilities suitable for food and ingredients.

Legal advice.

. do not represent the preceding remarks naturally and raise naturally also no requirement on correctness and completeness. This is only for the sake of order expressly clarified.

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