In 1978, Lee Coe, author of The Beginner’s Home Brew Book (1972), a small text on brewing Prohibition-style beer, went to Washington DC to lobby (at his own expense) for the legalization of brewing beer at home. In those days, the Feds were firmly convinced that we homebrewers only wanted to make moon shine out of our product. Fortunately, Congress saw it differently (thanks to California Democratic Senator Alan Cranston). The Republicans of that era had wanted to register homebrewers and severely restrict homebrewing to 30 gallons a year.
The new law, equalizing homebrewers with home winemakers, passed in 1978, signed into law by then President Carter on October 14th of that year. It went into effect in February, 1979.
The first homebrew club was the Maltose Falcons formed in Woodland Hills (at the edge of Los Angeles), CA. By 1980, some fifteen homebrew clubs were in operation around the country. Homebrew clubs have been instrumental in popularizing homebrewing across the land, and deserve credit for the amazing quality of homebrew that is so common these days.
Since 1985, homebrewers have been in the forefront of all brewing. They are a cultural asset to our society. There’s probably not a beer type on the planet that hasn’t been brewed in some American home. Prohibition would have been a failure from the start if homebrewers had been as well organized and educated as they are now.
Today, homebrew books are in abundance, new writers have delved into the most hidden corners of beer production and theory. Homebrewers have access to ingredients that are often better than those the large brewers use. I’ve been saying it for a long time, and it gets truer every day: Homebrewers are the cutting edge of the brewing industry. They are inventing the beers the big guys will brew for the masses of the 21st Century.