For the last 23 years, the California Homebrewers Association (CHA) has hosted the Southern California Homebrewers Festival, an event showcasing the work of the hardcore hobbyists conquering hops. But that won't be true this year.
This year, the 2014 Southern California Homebrewers Festival is cancelled because of a legal technicality — a recent amendment to Assembly Bill 1425 (AB 1425).
Originally, the bill allowed the exhibition of homemade beer or wine at events arranged by nonprofit organizations. Because the CHA is a nonprofit promoting the education of home brewing, there was never a problem for their annual event. However, after the recent amendment the bill now reads:
A nonprofit organization established for the purpose of promoting home production of beer or wine, or whose membership is composed primarily of home brewers or home winemakers, shall not be eligible to sell beer or wine pursuant to this subdivision.
"That excludes nonprofits like us," says CHA president Christy Elshof. "We knew we probably needed to find a new way to change the law."
Due to the revised legalese, the bill now forbids nonprofits associated with, or comprised of, home brewers to host an event showcasing homemade beer. And while the CHA does not sell homemade beer at their SoCal festival, they do sell tickets to the event. In the eyes of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act (ABC), the Southern California Homebrewers Festival is now illegal.
According to the CHA, the initial intention of the amendment aimed to halt "event promoters from hiding under nonprofit groups in order to make money." However, Elshof says the CHA accomplishes, "the exact opposite."
Elshof and other board members of the CHA quickly began a letter-writing campaign after the passing of the bill in November 2013. And while the home brewers societies of Southern California have had to hang up their brewing jumpsuits for this year's festival, they will not cease their efforts. The CHA encourages those passionate about the issue to contact their legislators to amend AB 1425 once again.
The letters and phone calls made so far to California assembly members have proved somewhat effective. Assemblyman Brian Nestande (D-Palm Desert) was one of the first to criticize the amendment and is now one of the CHA's strongest advocates.
In January, Nestande wrote to the ABC, "These small local festivals attract thousands of people. They are a vital part of our economy and promote small business growth. I'm committed to working with Director Gorsuch [of the ABC] to ensure the festival can carry on as planned."
But, although the CHA now has the support of roughly 10 assembly members, there does not seem to be enough time for the May-scheduled event to take place this year.
For now, the CHA is hard at work planning smaller replacement events to take the place of the larger festival.
After that, Elshof says that she and the CHA will continue addressing, "what [the ABC] has a problem with."