If you have joined the ranks of Colorado’s many homebrew hobbyists,
you have probably reviewed the relevant regulations and are aware that
there is a general prohibition against home-distilling spirits.
The State of Colorado does not prohibit ownership of a still, but it does
prohibit distilling spirituous liquors for personal consumption.
The Colorado Revised Statutes draw a distinction between malt liquor and
hard cider and “spirituous liquors.”
Malt liquor, which homebrewers can lawfully produce for personal consumption,
is defined to include beer and any other beverage obtained by the alcoholic
fermentation of any infusion or decoction of barley, malt, hops, or any
other similar product, containing more than 4% alcohol by volume. Similarly,
hard cider is defined to include those beverages made by fermentation
of the natural juice of apples or pears, containing at least .5% alcohol
by volume and less than 7% alcohol by volume.
In contrast, spirituous liquors include, among others, brandy, rum, whiskey,
gin, and powdered alcohol. Beverages of this type are obtained by distillation
and mixed with water and other substances in a solution. Home-distilling
spirituous liquors for personal consumption is prohibited under Colorado
law and is considered a Class 2 Petty Offense, carrying a $250 fine for
each offense. Manufacturing, selling, or possessing to sell spirituous
liquors without an appropriate license, however, is classified as a Class
2 Misdemeanor and would therefore jeopardize the professional license
of anyone charged with manufacturing, selling, or possessing to sell spirituous liquors.
There is another classification of liquor under Colorado law, however,
that creates an exception to the general prohibition on distilling spirituous
liquors without a license. Fortified wine is a wine, malt liquor, or hard
cider to which a distilled spirit is added. Commonly, the fortifying spirit
is brandy, but as fortified wine has grown in popularity, many different
styles of fortified wine have been developed using various spirituous
liquors as the fortifying agent.
Though federal regulations allow home brewing/distilling fortified wine
with an alcohol volume of up to 24%, fortified wine in Colorado may not
contain more than 21% alcohol by volume.
So, if you are a hobbyist interested in producing fortified wine at home,
distillation of spirituous liquors for fortification of wine, malt liquor
or cider is not unlawful in Colorado, so long as the alcohol content of
the resulting fortified wine remains under 21% alcohol by volume.
As always, remember to brew responsibly and only for personal consumption,
and stay updated on new or changing regulations. For more information,
contact the attorneys at Jorgensen, Brownell & Pepin, P.C.