Posted in Beer News

Armed Alabama Agents Confiscate Home Brewing Supplies


Do you need any proof that Alabama legislature is a backwards thinking? Read on.

My good friend Kraig Torres founded Hop City a few years ago in Atlanta, Georgia. The store sells 1,800+ beers, wine, and homebrewing supplies. Not to mention a 60+ growler station. Hop City is ranked among the best beer stores on planet earth on RateBeer.com Building upon his great success, Kraig decided to open a second location in Birmingham, Alabama.  Recent law changes make Birmingham a great place for a second Hop City.

Kraig has received all the necessary permits to open except for one – the liquor license from the Alabama Beverage Commission. Kraig applied for this license, and with it, provided a floor plan.  In the floor plan, he included an area for home brewing supplies. Home brewing is illegal in Alabama, but selling the ingredients is not. Kraig and his lawyer have done extensive diligence on the matter.

Yesterday (Thursday), ARMED ABC agents raided Hop City Birmingham, and confiscated books on home brewing, grain, wort chillers, and more. The agents threatened to arrest his store manager because he harbored materials used to make beer.  The ABC Agents loaded up a van with $7,000 of Kraig’s inventory, stating they would be back the next day for the rest.  Every single grain, hop, and carboy has to be out of the Hop City Birmingham location before a license will be granted.

Kraig tells me that his opening will now be delayed, until his license can be granted. “I’m being held hostage by the ABC board.”

Sound off. What are your thoughts on armed men confiscating books on brewing? Bagging hops and grain like it’s cocaine?

UPDATE 9/22/12. 9 AM: The agents were armed. Whether the guns were drawn, or pointed at employees is up for contention.

Ed. Note: Pic above is one BSJ took at the Atlanta Hop City location.

  • cj hardaway

    Its so absurd (and i’m from Bham originally). With all the local Govt coruption in that city and county, to think they’d spend their time on home-brewing equipment is insane. They prob wanted publicity…or Kraig didn’t grease the appropriate paws. They certainly will demand their share of the tax $, once HC starts selling!

  • skalaholic

    Looks like an awesome store from the picture. Really Alabama, illegal to homebrew wth, this needs to change ASAP.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joshua-R-Kern/11019469 Joshua R. Kern

      and with a proud tradition of moonshining too. Never been to Alabama. Don’t want to. Must write Lynyrd Skynrd parody song “Shit Hole Alabama” – where the air reeks of poo. Shit hole Alabama, gonna stay away from you.

  • http://twitter.com/TheFree_Lance Jeff A. Taylor

    This country has become infested with cowards with guns and badges.

    • Edward Johnson

      Really? I am a home brewer and a police officer. Thanks for you support…

      • Kevin

        Ed, Praise to you, you do a job that I wouldn’t want to do. But if you were told by your superior to gather up those “nasty” homebrewing supplies my guess is you would follow orders right? I think that is what the OP is getting at. More and more people are “following orders” instead of doing what they feel is right. I’m sure there were some in the bunch that made the raid thinking the whole deal was bad, but went through with it. I know… “were a nation of laws” and that is why you and every other homebrewer from EVERY state need to call these politicians and voice concern. I’ll post some contact info at the top of these comments.

  • Adam

    The south is littered with methlabs and other drug problems, and yet government money is spent busting beer stores that sell grains, and with guns drawn incase he feels like defending those wort chillers with his life. What a joke Alabama is.

    • Stovie

      Because they knew exactly where to find it… They had to do something I mean they can’t actually do their jobs so why not take the easy route

      • http://www.facebook.com/MartyReadling William Martin Readling

        And because they were sure that he would not shoot back. Cowards.

  • http://drydenlane.tumblr.com tamara

    That’s so ridiculous. I can’t believe homebrewing is illegal somewhere, but to confiscate the things needed to homebrew? So crazy. I’m not trying to be overly litigious but I hope Kraig’s lawyering up.

  • Michael

    This is why Alabama can’t have nice things.

    • anaan

      As an Alabamian, I can confirm this. This state is determined to be a shit hole forever. Any step forward guarantees two steps back.

  • http://www.facebook.com/BrianBurns999 Brian Burns

    Ridiculous. This is prohibition-era, nanny state, tyranny. I hope Kraig sues the holy hell out of the state.

    • BK

      All while they vote heavily for “small government” republicans.

  • http://twitter.com/Planet_Scott scott lathrop

    Some of those items confiscated are also available at Wal Mart.
    This is tantamount for getting a speeding ticket for driving half a mile an hour over the speed limit…..Yeah, you were speeding, but was it worth the effort to prove a point?
    As citizens, and humans, we need to continue to share this story to show the state of Alabama how obtuse they are.

  • http://twitter.com/JimOdium Jim Odom

    Something is definitely fishy here… I live about 45 minutes from the new HopCity location, I know of other places that have sold homebrewing products for many years. This isn’t an “backward Alabama thing”, this reeks of CORRUPT Birmingham leaders…. That city/county is a complete joke!

    • anaan

      Birmingham just needs to go ahead and collapse onto itself.

  • Red

    As a fellow home-brewer, member of Free the Hops, and frequent customer of your Atlanta store, let me start by saying that not all of us here in Alabama “backwards”, and I do not appreciate your comments at all. As a matter of fact in the last few years we have made a lot of changes in the laws of the state. Had it not been for people like us apparently “backwards thinking” Alabamians there would be no reason for a store like yours to even consider opening up in the state. Progress has been made relatively quickly, specifically in relation to the beer laws, and big changes have been made. Until a few years ago there was no beer sold in the state over 5%abv. Not to long before that stores in many counties did not even sell cold beers, and until recently there were no bottles over 12 or so ounces. These laws do not exist because of “backward thinking” Alabamians but because of money. Almost every year lawmakers are asked to allow home-brewing in Alabama, but after extensive lobbying by people like Anheuser-Bush (stella…whatever), and other organizations who’s wallets are threatened by home-brewing, it is voted down. I myself am looking at opening a brewery of my own in the next two years and completely understand your frustration with the laws of my state, but send your frustrations those who deserve them. I frequent your store almost exclusively for home-brew supplies and ingredients which I buy in quantities over a hundred pounds at a time, and until now was very exited about your store opening up closer to my home. After your reaction to something you had to consider might happen I may start going somewhere else. Good luck with your situation.

    • red

      And I will also be letting my lawmakers know what I think of what happened. Books….?

      • http://www.facebook.com/story.david.e David Story

        I agree Red. Being from Alabama and a lifetime member of Free The Hops I am a little appalled by the commentary here. I hate the laws but I guarantee it is not the people of Alabama that want these laws in place, it is Macro Brewers and distributors that feel threatened by QUALITY beer being brewed, not some swill. My guess is, most of the people posting the remarks are Natural Light drinkers!

    • http://BeerStreetJournal.com/ Reid Ramsay

      NOTE: This wasn’t written by an employee of Hop City.

      • Stuart

        Reid, think you could mod some of the inflammatory anti-Alabama comments here? They are abusive and unwarranted.

        • jethro

          Yes, please censor the post. That way people won’t think all people from “bama” are redneck hicks. LOL

        • JOOO

          Reid, Do think you could censor some of the retarded comments from Alabama…. They are retarded and uneducated… (Not the comments…
          The Alabamians…)

      • Red

        I do realize that, but this was the first thing I saw when going to their FB page to check on the progress.

    • Red

      **ABV was from 6-13.9%, and container size was <16oz

  • earthsound

    He’ll have to sue them to get his books and grain back. Books and ingredients are not illegal in AL, as far as I can tell. Unfortunately, in AL it is illegal to possess “any still or apparatus to be used for the manufacture of any alcoholic beverage.” Why do other store get by without having that code enforced? Probably because they have a lot of possible influence ($) or they don’t have a license to sell alcohol.

  • Papa Ducks

    Alabama…never underestimate a large group of stupid people….they vote Republican every time.

    • AZ homebrewer

      What?! That is your response to a government agency misusing tax dollars and harassing a business because of an archaic law that has been on the books for many years. Too old to blame on republicans or democrats. You sir, would serve your party (I’m guessing the Dems) better if you would keep your outbursts to yourself.

      • shart

        Well, it’s true.

        • COHomebrewer

          It’s NOT true. Listen to most of the representatives in this video. Most of the ones that sounds like totally uninformed ignoramuses are Democrats:
          Debate on Legalizing Homebrewing in Alabama (2011)
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVqnUf8NH6g&feature=youtu.be Either way, idiocy is well represented by Republicans in this video too (all except the first guy, who’s probably sitting there listening to these morons and thinking, “WTF??”

          • EotS

            What’s most ridiculous is that anyone can listen to these authoritarian sociopaths “reasoning” why you can’t brew your own beer, and hold any belief that these people are necessary to have an orderly and civilized society.

            What a joke.

          • think out side the box

            If I owned a business like this in Georgia, I would calculate the total tax revenue it generates for the state, this means property tax, income, tax, sales tax, and how many people are employed directly and indirectly by all of my stores. I would then contact all parties involved and let them know that if I do not have my stuff back with in forty eight Iputting an opp ed piece in all of the local papers about the states actions naming names of all parties involved and letting them know that I would be closing all of my locations and leaving the state, I know that other states would love to have my business and taxes. I guarantee that politicians and who’s re-election is threatened would get this handled quickly.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=688245302 Dale Carter

      Actually, we don’t. Alabama was a solidly Democrat state until 1993, when we elected the first GOP governor in over 100 years and, since then, have pretty much alternated between the two parties. Of course, don’t let ignorance stop you from making snarky comments.

    • CR

      It’s not the republicans. Most of the conservatives I know home brew.

    • anaan

      This is actually an issue that both sides agree is stupid. But then, the Democrat politicians here are basically Republicans anyway, so… never mind. You’re right.

  • Dr.Evil LLC

    Either you are for “Law & Order” or you’re not. Pick a side folks. MAYBE, someone jumped the gun a little and opened their doors before being fully compliant with the law.

    • anaan

      They weren’t open yet. Did you even read the article?

    • EotS

      Right. Because “Law” is whatever a bunch of criminals calling themselves “government” says it is, and your duty is to be obedient. This is how you have order in society.

  • JEAS3

    Sounds like they didn’t do their due diligence all that well, quite frankly. Did either he or his lawyer bother to ask the ABC board if it was OK to sell home brewing supplies?

  • Donnie

    welcome to alabama!

  • throwaway

    hey, just a correction…guns were NOT drawn. they worked with the owner very well, were NOT violent or confrontational. while it was not the outcome that the store wanted, it was NOT as bad as this article makes it sound.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joshua-R-Kern/11019469 Joshua R. Kern

      thanks damage control, PR guy!

  • Roswell Beer Lover

    like to say that Alabama is an hour and 10 years behind Atlanta. B’ham was in the lead for the SE Regional Hub Airport and lost it to now Hartsfield Jackson. never recovered

  • http://www.facebook.com/MartyReadling William Martin Readling

    This is why there are federal civil suits.

  • http://www.facebook.com/MartyReadling William Martin Readling

    Does anyone know if there is an Alabama state law against small scale home brewing of beer?

    • http://www.facebook.com/story.david.e David Story

      Yes, I am from Alabama, and there is two statutes. One dealing with the manufacture of alcohol and one dealing with the possession of any item used to manufacture alcohol. We citizens along with Free The Hops and Right To Brew are doing everything we can to repeal these ass backwards laws.

  • Craig K.

    Theres a reason that Alabama is one of the top 5 worst places in America to live. This is just one of the reasons. Your best bet. Is open up a place in South Carolina, Florida, any place but this sewage pit of a state.

  • Ken Head

    So, all those soldiers supposedly fighting for our freedoms, why aren’t they in places like Alabama and Texas wiping out all the petty bureaucrats? Or in Washington, end the war on human behavior (aka drugs)? Oh yeah, they aren’t. They are fighting on behalf of the state so it can continue tyrannizing the populace.

    • kjv

      because those are the idiots telling us what to do and where to go.

  • B

    Good thing I don’t own a beer store or you guys would be reading about a bunch of ABC agents that didn’t make it home to their families that night instead.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joshua-R-Kern/11019469 Joshua R. Kern

      truthfully, this is what needs to start happening. ordinary citizens outnumber the enforcement classes by at LEAST a factor of 15. at the very least put the fear of a severe beating into these thugs.

  • dmg101

    No wonder alabama is one of the top 5 dumbest states in america. I’m ashamed to call this state home. People here are so backwards and dumb jackasses worshipping their football religion.

  • Shane E Keller

    how can i help? i live in oregon where home brewing is legal (and how is that government can say otherwise anywhere?) and i want to do something to make it legal everywhere …. how can i help?

    • http://twitter.com/BrewerAdam Adam Godfrey

      Join FreeTheHops.org

  • Shane E Keller

    Get with the times, Alabama. It’s 2012. Stop wasting our tax dollars on crap like this. Humanity has been brewing beer for thousands of years. Leave us the fuck alone.

  • mweber

    Sounds like the state of alabama needs to worry about more serious things like drugs and crooked politicians that steal the taxpayers money and leave people alone that are trying to open a business that will bring the state tax dollars !

  • Scott Koning

    Alabama is a fucked up backward uncivilized entity that barely is better than the Islamic filth that infests the middle east. There is no hope for garbage like the dumb-ass shit that runs the state of Alabama. Homebrewing has been LEGAL in EVERY State for DECADES! How backward can a state be and still exist in the 21st century?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tatiana-Covington/100002159242044 Tatiana Covington

    I wonder what would have happened had they been retaliated against in kind? can’t take it? Don’t dish it out.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tatiana-Covington/100002159242044 Tatiana Covington

    I’ve never seen why you have to abide by others’ decisions for you when they won’t abide by yours for them.

  • Dr. Pepper

    Move your business , alabama sucks .

  • http://twitter.com/BobSouthard AgentBob

    I have been meaning to visit the Georgia Store. Now it is a must do! I guess Al is about 20 years or so behind Ga. Homebrewing used to be illegal here too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ray.kodiak Ray Kodiak

    well, its no longer on local news, but national news – and the Feds are looking into it, that I assure you….. :- |

  • CelticBrewer


    enough said about the politicians of alabama…

  • Dumb ‘bamanians

    Love the people from ‘bama coming on here defending their state – hilarious. http://www.mamapop.com/2011/09/how-smart-or-dumb-is-your-state.html Way to go ‘bama 42nd place on that poll!!! Woohoo!!!

  • Aubrey Green

    So how do these people not get busted?

    http://www.alabrew.com/

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IQIGXRVWW5XRETNV25R4FATCOM ssenecal5000

    Well if it’s illegal then you are a lawbreaker.
    Lobby to change the law first, then homebrew.

    • http://BeerStreetJournal.com/ Reid Ramsay

      Last time I checked, owning grain and books on brewing were not illegal in any state. Yeast is legal also.

  • Kevin

    I thought Alabama was a nice looking state when I visited. I am glad I read this. I won’t be going back there. Politicians that act like the Gustapo??? Go get a real job! I’m sure they have no problem taking kickbacks from InBev though… crooked A$$ gom’ent for you…

  • Reverend J

    You shore have a purty mouth! Football ain’t the only sport in the south!

  • 2crudedudes

    Just consider this is exactly what is going on in California with dispensaries. Its no less absurd that armed Federal agents are raiding legal distribution points with weapons drawn. They’re PLANTS inside a legally-rented place, what could you need a gun for? You’re not raiding a clandestine meth lab…

    Law enforcement in this country is on a serious power trip.

  • https://twitter.com/TheDanLovingood Dan Lovingood

    They’re crazy in Alabama. They’re still stuck in the early part of the last century.