How Jimmy Carter Sparked the Craft Beer Revolution

Jimmy Carter

All of this buzz about Obama’s beer had me and a few coworkers thinking; while we’re down with Obama and his sweet honey homebrew, he’s merely a participant in an age-old tradition of making beer in the comfort of one’s own home. In fact, he doesn’t even do it himself. He has the White House kitchen staff doing the bulk of the brewing.

Our 39th President, Mr. James Carter, is the true homebrew hero; he and a lesser known man by the name of Alan Cranston, a veteran democratic senator from California. How so, you ask? Well, on October 14, 1978, Jimmy Carter signed the bill H.R. 1337, which contained an amendment sponsored by Alan Cranston. That amendment created an exemption from taxation of beer brewed at home for personal or family use. Essentially, it lifted regulations imposed by Prohibition laws over 50 years previous.

If you look at the chart pictured below, you’ll see that the number of US craft breweries started to take off in 1988, and skyrocketed in the 90s. While we can’t say this growth resulted solely from the Carter-Cranston bill, it’s hard to deny the correlation.

Brewery Count Graph
Graph from

Many have pointed to the flaws in this Carter glorification. To be fair, Carter legalized homebrew on a federal level, reserving the right for states to deny it. Homebrewing is still illegal in Alabama and Mississippi, although advocates in both states are working to change that.

With that said, pushing the bill got the ball rolling, and without Carter’s advocacy, we may not be where we are today, as most craft breweries get their start in someone’s home. So regardless of how you feel about Carter as a President, you have to respect what he did for the craft beer industry. And if you can’t stomach that, then give the credit to Mr. Cranston.


  • Jeffrey Bower January 30, 2013 @ 12:50am

    @ estevaan roman– legalizing home brewing did spark the craft beer market. Every craft beer company first home brewed. A Craft Brewer is just a Home Brewer that got tired of his friends drinking for free. I am a Craft Brewer because 6 years ago I became a Home Brewer.

    • Frank Di Marco September 1, 2016 @ 2:15pm

      Hey Jeffrey,

      I really like your saying “A Craft Brewer is just a Home Brewer that got tired of his friends drinking for free.” I would like to use it for my beer tastings when explaining the difficulty of the term “craft beer” in a German context. Are you still active as a craft brewer. I’d really like to get in touch. Either via mail or o nmy facebook profile
      Looking forward to hearing from you

      Frank Di Marco

  • Jon Hundt August 26, 2016 @ 1:41pm

    “a lesser known man by the name of Alan Cranston, a veteran democratic senator from California. ”

    and a huge figure in California politics, quite likely more widely known in California than the 39th president.

  • Tom October 17, 2016 @ 5:46pm

    Best president ever

    • Amen June 20, 2017 @ 7:49pm

      Well spoken Sir

  • sourdough September 24, 2017 @ 9:59pm

    I can’t believe there was no mention in your article of Rep. William A. Steiger (R) 6th district Wisconsin.
    He was the congressman who first introduced H.R. 1337. He died less than two months after President Carter signed 1337 into law. He would never see the overall positive effect of his legislation nor the decline of major breweries in Wisconsin. Schlitz? Pabst? Not many people under 30 ever heard of them.

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