If you want to make moonshine in Ohio, you might also be wondering: is that legal?
The prohibition era is over, but that doesn’t mean you can just fire up the backyard still and start moonshining.
In this article, we’ll look at the legal status of moonshine in Ohio.
What is Moonshine and Why is it called Moonshine?
In the purest sense, moonshine is clear grain alcohol made from a corn mash and distilled in a small still. However, people use the term “moonshine” to refer to any kind of clear grain alcohol with very high proof that is made from a home still.
The word “moonshine” comes from the prohibition era. The fires they used to heat their stills would put up smoke into the air which made it easy to find them – except at night when the smoke trails were much less obvious and harder to see.
They called the homemade liquor moonshine because it was made under the shining light of the moon, to make it harder to detect.
Today, distilling liquor remains illegal without a permit, but moonshine is legally made and sold at lower proofs to keep the tradition and flavors alive.
Is Making Moonshine Illegal in Ohio (and Why)
Although you can own and operate a still in Ohio to distill water or essential oils, if you want to distill spirits you will need some additional paperwork.
There are federal statutes that specifically prohibit the home distillation of alcohol without a license. If you just start making moonshine in your backyard, you are committing a federal crime and there are stiff penalties.
However, if you are willing to file the right applications and get federal and state approval, it is possible to make moonshine in Ohio legally.
These laws go back to the prohibition era, but they continue to be enforced both for public safety and because of the heavy tax revenues generated by controlled liquor sales.
The federal government requires anyone who distills alcohol to have a federal distilled spirits permit.
You can apply online for free, but it involves a full background check. If you want to make moonshine, you will need to tell the federal government exactly how you’re doing it and what you intend to do with the finished product.
You will need to provide details about how you protect your still from fire and theft. Be aware that if you are a felon or you are in business with who has a criminal history you could be denied.
In Ohio, a federal license isn’t enough to make your moonshine operation legal. You still need a state license and local approval.
An A3-A license is available for micro-distillers who intend to produce less than 100,000 gallons of alcohol a year, and will only be selling the alcohol in-person, and off-premises. Larger producers can apply for an A3 license.
This involves more background checks and approvals.
You might also need local approval from municipal officials like the fire marshal, water marshal, or municipal zoning. Even if you have the appropriate federal and state approval, you might not be cleared to start distilling in your backyard, which is next to a local park.
Alcohol Excise Taxes
Liquor sales are subject to state and federal excise taxes per unit, much like cigarettes.
Ohio is an “alcoholic beverage control state” where liquor and spirits are only sold in state-approved and controlled liquor stores. Therefore, there is no state excise tax on liquor.
Liquor sales are subject to the 5.75% Ohio state sales tax.
The federal excise tax for liquor is $13.50 per proof gallon (gallon at 50% ABV).
What’s the Penalty for Distilling in Ohio?
According to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Board, privately distilling and selling alcohol is a violation of 26 United States Code (U.S.C.) 5042(a)(2) and 5053(e).
Each offense carries a potential penalty of $10,000, 5 years in prison, or both.
Is it Legal to Own a Still in Ohio?
It is perfectly legal to own a still in Ohio without a license if you intend to use it decoratively, or to distill water and/or essential oils.
However, if you want to produce alcohol or fuel, you need a license.
Is Homebrewing Beer and Wine Illegal in Ohio?
It is legal to produce your own beer and wine for personal consumption since there is no distillation required.
However, if you want to sell your homemade beer and wine you will need additional permits.
How To Get a Distilling Permit in Ohio?
You can apply for a federal distilled spirits permit online.
You can apply for an A3-A distiller’s license online through Ohio.gov.
For both, you will need a lot of additional documentation. It’s best to start with the federal permit first since it may be required or state-level paperwork.