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If a brewer were to keep a donation jar near his kegs (i.e. tip jar), would this be strictly legal in the United States? Sales of homebrew are prohibited, and this website states that requiring a cover charge for a party where homebrew was served would also be illegal. But, since a dontation/tip is not required to drink the beer, would this also be prohibited?

This question is really in two parts:

1) Is it strictly legal to have a tip jar?

2) Practically speaking, does anyone ever actually get in trouble for this?

I understand that laws will vary state-to-state. I am interested in any specific information you have, regardless of state.

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3 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

1) I think if it said "Tips for the beer" then yes, it would be illegal. If it said "donations because I'm awesome and you want to give me money for no apparent reason" then it would probably be fine. I'm not a lawyer though. So..

2) No. Unless you're throwing parties and the ATF has a sting operation and sends someone in under cover to see if you're making 25 cents off a 5 gallon batch of homebrew, you'll be fine. They've got bigger things to worry about.

3) (The unasked question) A legal way to do it? Make a friend(s) buy the ingredients, and have them help you brew it. Technically, you might even be able to get tips for "homebrew supplies", as that's not alcohol.

Note: still not a lawyer.

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I am not a lawyer and have not researched this at all but here is my opinion. Now I am assuming if you are putting out a tip jar that this is for a party. Then you wouldnt want to put the jar near the kegs because in the unlikely event there was someone undcover there then you wouldnt them to be able to say that it is implied it is for the beer since it is where the bear is. Also I think donations are taxable and maybe gifts are not but you need to check that out to be sure. You could have it as a gift/donation jar and maybe write something to the effect of donation for cost of party or gift if your having a good time or something. Also if you want to be legal I also believe in the tax code where it talks about homebrew it is for personal or family consumption and they could probably get you for giving it away to others. but again you need to double check that. I know i didnt give you any real answers but hopefully some of what I said is helpful for looking into it more and maybe some things you hadn't thought of.

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Wait, a bear is holding the tip jar next to the kegs? What kind of party is this? –  Doresoom Jun 2 '11 at 18:39
    
I'm not sure you deserved the downvote; I appreciate the response. I am now interested in the question of giving it away to others. I've given my beer away to many friends and family, under the assumption that this is legal, as long as I am not selling it. Also, I'm not having a party. :) But friends do come over and drink the beer from the keg; it would be nice if they could chip in for supplies now and then. –  Dustin Rasener Jun 2 '11 at 21:53
    
Whether you can legally give beer away will depend on the laws if the state where you live. I've just gone through getting the laws here in OR changed to allow it, but you should check on what's legal in your own locality. –  Denny Conn Jun 3 '11 at 14:41
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If they are your friends then you really shouldnt have to worry about getting busted. Here is a link that shows what I am talking about with the law. You can search for the actual law using the chapter and section number provided in the link.

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode26/usc_sec_26_00005053----000-.html

So just like most laws you could argue you are not breaking any laws because you are not selling it even though they are not family. So to keep things simple there is no definate answer lol. So if you put up a donation jar I cant imagine how anyone would find out if it were illegal. So like i think someone above said maybe you could ask for money from friends to buy malt, yeast, hops and stuff because that is not beer. Its on beer after fermentation. Hope that kinda helps but when it comes to laws from what i can tell it doesnt always matter how it is written because a judge will interpret it any way he/she wants.

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