Alcoholic Beverages

 

Overview

Home brewing, winemaking, and distilling is becoming increasingly popular in North Carolina and the rest of the country.  This section is intended to help the home brewer, winemaker or distiller understand the laws concerning their products and their sale.  The 21st Amendment leaves regulation of home brewing largely up to the states.

 

Applicable Law

Regulation of Alcoholic Beverages – N.C.G.S. Chapter 18B

Federal Alcohol Administration Act (FAA Act) – 27 USC Chapter 8

Labeling and Advertising of Malt Beverages – 27 CFR Part 7

Labeling Proceedings – 27 CFR Part 13

Alcoholic Beverage Health Warning Statement – 27 CFR Part 16

Beer – 27 CFR Part 25

 

Additional Links

NC Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission - http://www.ncabc.com/

 

Definitions

Alcoholic Beverage - Any beverage in liquid form which contains not less than one-half of one percent of alcohol by volume and is intended for human consumption.  27 USC § 214(1).

Malt Beverage – Any beer, lager, malt liquor, ale, porter, and any other brewed or fermented beverage except unfortified or fortified wine, containing at least 0.5%, and not more than 15% alcohol by volume.  N.C.G.S. § 18B-101(9).

Unfortified Wine – Any wine of sixteen percent (16%) or less alcohol by volume made by fermentation from grapes, fruits, berries, rice, or honey; or by the addition of pure cane, beet, or dextrose sugar; or by the addition of pure brandy from the same type of grape, fruit, berry, rice, or honey that is contained in the base wine and produced in accordance with federal regulations.  N.C.G.S. § 18B-101(15).

Fortified Wine – Wine of more than 16% and not more than 24% alcohol by volume, made by fermentation from grapes, fruits, berries, rice, or honey; or by the addition of pure cane, beet, or dextrose sugar; or by the addition of pure brandy from the same type of grape, fruit, berry, rice, or honey that is contained in the base wine and produce in accordance with federal law.  N.C.G.S. § 18B-101(7).

Spirituous Liquors - Distilled spirits or ethyl alcohol, including spirits of wine, whiskey, rum, brandy, gin and all other distilled spirits and mixtures of cordials, liqueur, and premixed cocktails, in closed containers for beverage use regardless of their dilution.  N.C.G.S. § 18B-101(14).

 

FAQs

 Do I need a permit to make wine or malt beverages for my own consumption?

No.  You may make, possess, and transport unfortified wine and malt beverages for your own use and the use of your family and guests without an ABC permit.  The wine must be made from honey, grapes, or other fruit or grain grown in North Carolina, or from wine kits containing honey, grapes, or other fruit or grain concentrates.  The alcohol content must be produced by natural fermentation – for example, you can’t make wine and strengthen it by adding grain alcohol.  N.C.G.S. § 18B-306.

Note, however, that a malt beverage with greater than 15% alcohol by volume or wine with over 16% alcohol by volume is illegal to produce even for home consumption.

 

How much of an alcoholic beverage may a home brewer produce a year for personal use?

 A household of one adult may brew up to 100 gallons of wine and 100 gallons of beer each year for personal use.  A household of two or more adults may brew up to 200 gallons of wine and 200 gallons of beer each year for personal use.  27 CFR 24.75; 27 CFR 25.205.

 

Do I need a permit to sell wine or malt beverages I made myself?

Yes.  If you are manufacturing any alcoholic beverages for sale, you will need a commercial permit.  The type of permit required depends on the type of beverage you are producing.  A full list of the types of permits is available here, but these are some that may be most relevant to a home producer:

The NC Department of Commerce has advice for starting a commercial winery here.

 

Why is there a distinction between fortified and unfortified wine?

The primary difference is taxes.  The excise tax on the sale of unfortified wine is 26.34 cents per liter, while the excise tax on fortified wine is 29.34 cents per liter.  N.C.G.S. § 105-113.80.

The excise tax on the sale of malt beverages is 61.79 cents per gallon.  N.C.G.S. § 105-113.80.

 

Do I need a permit to distill spirituous liquors for my own consumption?

Yes.  It is illegal to distill your own liquors without a permit, even for home consumption.  27 CFR 1.21.  However, you may only receive a permit if it is found that you are likely to commence operations as a distiller, warehouseman and bottler, rectifier, importer, or wholesaler, as the case may be, within a reasonable period and to maintain such operations in conformity with federal law.  27 CFR 1.24.  A distillation operation may not be located in a residence, a yard, a shed, or other enclosure connected with a residence.  26 U.S.C. § 5178.  This essentially makes it illegal to operate a non-commercial distilling operation.  Nevertheless, an application may be found here.

 

I have obtained or am in the process of obtaining a permit to sell malt beverages or wine.  Do I need approval for each product I wish to sell?

Yes, you must obtain individual product approval.  In order to obtain product approval for a malt beverage or unfortified wine or fortified wine, you must submit to the NC Alcoholic Beverage Commission the following:

  • A completed Product/Label Approval form with original labels attached;
  • A certified analysis showing the alcohol content by volume, bearing the signature of the person performing the analysis; or submit two12 oz. sample bottles for analysis purposes;
  • A copy of your Federal Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) (application available here); and
  • A fee of $10.00 with the submission of a certified analysis or $25.00 with two 12 oz sample bottles.

 

How must I label my malt beverages or wine for sale?

Malt beverage containers must contain the following legible information:

  • The product’s brand name;
  • The name and address of brewer or bottler;
  • The class of product (i.e., beer, ale, porter, lager, bock, stout, etc.);
  • The product’s net contents; and
  • The Federal Government Health Warning as required by Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.  27 USC § 16.21.

27 CFR 7.22

 

Unfortified or fortified wine containers must contain the following legible information:

  • The product’s brand name;
  • The class and type of the wine;
  • The name and address of the manufacturer or bottler;
  • On blends consisting of foreign and domestic wine, if any reference is made to the presence of foreign wine, the exact percentage by volume of the foreign wine;
  • The product’s net contents (unless blown or otherwise permanently inscribed in the container); and
  • The Federal Government Health Warning as required by Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.  27 USC § 16.21.

27 CFR 4.32; 27 CFR 4.38

If the wine is sold in an opaque box or sleeve or other covering, such covering must contain all mandatory label information.  27 CFR 4.38(a).

 

What is the Federal Government Health Warning?

“GOVERNMENT WARNING: (1) According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects.

(2) Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and may cause health problems.”  27 USC § 215(a).

 

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