DENVER – Before the craft-beer explosion, brewers were developing recipes at home.
Dave Thibodeau, co-owner of Ska Brewing Co., found his desire to brew at 17 years old. What started as homebrew experimentation, became Ska, which opened in Durango in 1995.
DeWayne Jackson, the brewer at Mancos Brewing Co., got his start homebrewing in Texas, before he would go on to work at Moab Brewery in Utah, and then on to Mancos.
Little did these two brewers know that if they were homebrewing in Colorado, they were required to be the “head of a family” in order to produce their recipes at home, and only for “family use.” In fact, few homebrewers are aware of the antiquated Colorado law.
State lawmakers began addressing the issue on Thursday, with a legislative fix that would eliminate “head of a family,” and replace the terminology with “adult,” meaning someone 21 years of age or older. “Family use” would be replaced with “personal use.”
The bill, House Bill 1084, passed out of the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee unanimously. It now heads to the House floor for debate, before it can move to the Senate.
“I can give you any number of scenarios where it’s not appropriate in today’s society to use head of family,” said Rep. Steve Lebsock, D-Thornton, who is sponsoring the legislation. “‘Adult’ just seems to be the more appropriate word to use.”
Greg Radziewicz, owner of Quirky Homebrew Supply in Northglenn, said homebrew beer is no different than beer purchased in a store, in terms of how it’s used.
“The ‘family use’ wording implies that it cannot leave a family’s home, nor be used by anyone outside the family. What we’re trying to make sure is you can take a six pack of homebrew to your friend’s house and share a beer with them while having a burger and watching the football game,” Radziewicz told lawmakers.
Thibodeau found the entire situation almost comical, wondering who even uses the term “head of a family” in today’s age. He pointed out that under the current law, 21-year-old college students would have to fight for head-of-family status to brew at home.
“What the hell is a head of household?” Thibodeau asked with a laugh. “I just can’t imagine someone actually getting in trouble for it.”
Ska Brewing has long supported the homebrew community. The brewery sold homebrew supplies for about four years, and hosts the Animas Alers Homebrew Club in Durango, a gathering of local homebrewers.
“Our roots are fully embedded in homebrewing, going back to the days before there was even a homebrewing shop in Colorado,” Thibodeau said.
Since those early days, homebrewing has gained popularity and acceptance, following the proliferation of the craft beer industry as a whole. The Boulder-based American Homebrewers Association represents about 46,000 members across the nation, including 7,000 in Colorado.
Mancos Brewing Co. sees homebrewers walking through its doors regularly, with people constantly asking for advice, said Jackson. Having been a homebrewer himself, Jackson is happy to oblige.
Similar to Ska, Mancos Brewing hosts the Mesa Verde Mashers Homebrew Club, a group of homebrewers that meet in Montezuma County. Calling themselves “amateur brewers,” the group has even used Mancos Brewing’s facilities to perfect their craft. Jackson has also passed along certain ingredients, like hops and yeast.
In the end, he says the craft beer world is all connected.
“I’m a craftsman, and I’m an independent entrepreneur,” Jackson said, underscoring that his homebrew roots helped drive decisions, like leaving the larger Moab Brewery for the much smaller Mancos Brewing.
“I wanted to do something more local, more homegrown,” Jackson said. “I wanted to actually talk and meet and enjoy and watch the people live their lives out there drinking my beer.”