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I often produce an excess of homebrew. Would it be legal to sell it in the UK, I would only be selling a maximum of 50 pints / year and my charge would really only cover the cost of the bottle.

Ideally I'd charge a £2 deposit for the bottle and this is refunded if they bring it back. Is this legal?

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5 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Looks like you'll need an "off-license" and specifics vary from country to country, even within the UK: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcohol_licensing_laws_of_the_United_Kingdom

Realistically, if you're just selling to friends, you can slide under the radar. In the end, it's only 50 pints, which obviously doesn't merit the trouble of getting a license. You might also consider asking for donations to cover the cost of bottles (or for bottles themselves) and giving away the homebrew.

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This is similar to the "collectors" brews you see sold on Ebay (Dark Lord in the US comes to mind.) A disclaimer says that you are buying the unopened bottle for collection purposes, but it's still not exactly legal. Admittedly it could be the case that all those sellers are licensed, but I am skeptical. It still implies to me that you should be safe doing a bottle deposit system among friends. –  Mike S Dec 7 '10 at 5:29
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Really, selling your homebrew is not worth the hassle of licensing requirements and so on. The 2003 Licensing Act states that the sale by retail of alcohol requires a license. And you will certainly come under food standards trading requirements too.

Give your beer away to friends, and ask if they can return the bottles. Same outcome as your suggestion and with a higher feel good factor. Plus your friends will think you less of a tight wad :)

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You specifically mention retail, what rules apply to supplying licensed premises? –  Mild Fuzz Mar 15 at 19:02
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Don't sell alcohol, sell raffle tickets in an “everyone is a winner” scenario, and trade them in for the beer. It is an absolute loop hole. I know of a few establishments around London that use this technique and have been getting away with it for years (due to refusal of license), also, think of the amount of booze on offer at any raffle table (it’s almost obligatory), that changes hands perfectly legally. Hopefully this will help.

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You're referring to section 175 of the licensing act 2003, which allows you to conduct a raffle with alcohol as a prize in some circumstances. There are restrictions, though, and one of those is that it can't be operated for a profit, which suggests that the establishments you talk of are treading a very fine line indeed. See legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/17/section/175 for details. –  Jules Jan 24 at 14:10
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The law says that you can't sell alcohol, but if someone asks you to do a brew and pays for the ingredients and your time/equipment it might be a different matter.

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IAMNAL but I think you need a licence to sell any form of alcohol in the UK. You'll likely need to register with Customs and Excise as well.

You may also have have food safety requirements to concern yourself with as well.

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-1 For complete conjecture. –  Mike S Dec 7 '10 at 5:20
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