OLCC Blowback Escalates

A couple days ago, I passed along news that the OLCC and Oregon DOJ had ruled that a long-standing law prevented judging home brew and homemade wine at the Oregon State Fair. Yesterday, folks in the homebrew community as well as Lisa Morrison suggest that not only will this end the State Fair competition, but all competitions. Here's Lisa:
It also appears that home brewers might not even be able to participate in other competitions outside the state; the OLCC is ruling that homebrew can’t be transported, because the law stipulates the beer must be consumed at the home where it is brewed. Heck, home brewers might not even be able to legally bring a corny keg of their latest IPA to friend’s summer barbecue the way the OLCC is currently interpreting the law...

Indeed, at least two Portland-based homebrew clubs are being impacted by this mess. PDX Brewers have already decided to ban homebrew from its meetings, and the Oregon Brew Crew, one of the oldest homebrew clubs in the country, is meeting later today (Tuesday) to discuss whether to ban members from bringing homebrew to meetings. In-house club competitions, which are held monthly to help brewers learn more about brewing specific styles, will probably also be discontinued, and several larger competitions, including the American Homebrewers Association-sanctioned Fall Classic, and the in-club Collaborator Project, in which winners get to brew their winning beer at Widmer Brothers Brewing, will no doubt become a thing of the past. (Rob Widmer tells me they are having a “regulations specialist” look into this mess as I type).

I may be swimming up a roaring torrent here, but I think all this panic is overblown. No one is going to start cracking down on homebrew competitions. No cop is going to pull over homebrewers like erstwhile rum-runners (though the imagery is enticing). There are several issues here. The mere existence of a law on the books does not make it enforceable. (We have several crazy laws on the books.) An example I'm quite familiar with: when I asked the state whether it would be illegal if a pub serving "pints" in 14-ounce glasses was legal, they admitted that it probably wasn't. But there was no way to enforce it.

Beyond a written law, you need: 1) a penalty for violating the law, and 2) funds to enforce it. The state can't keep schools open; it's damn sure not sending cops out after homebrewers. And even if a homebrewer was caught in violation; what would the state do with her?

This is a stupid law that may or may not be changed. I'm a bit of a radical, so my instinct is to overtly flout the law. The OLCC's interpretation is clearly not consonant with the intent of the law; enforcing it advances no discernible social good; and bothering to try to enforce it is an affront to the will of the people. I think a "Hey OLCC, Here We Are" Homebrew Contest is in order.

Oh, and one more thing. While it will be useful to contact your local rep and senator to let them know to change the law, this isn't a quick fix. The legislature won't be in session again until January.

Of course, there's a Facebook page to protest the law; go and join if you wish to publicly register your displeasure. Meanwhile, I'm going to load the Toyota fulla homebrew and drive around town until a cop pulls me over.