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Local suds maker promotes latitude

Mike Fredricksen is a home brewer in Hudson and member of the Sconnie Suds home brewing club who wants to see a change in the state law regarding transportation of homemade fermented malt beverages. Photo by Jon Echternacht

The art of brewing beer goes back thousands of years in history.

In Wisconsin it's every bit a part of the fabric of history and culture in the state.

But, under interpretation of the current law, a home brewer is forbidden to share the fruits of his labor with a neighbor if he hands a frosty bottle of the amber fluid across his property line to his neighbor.

Mike Fredricksen, 40, Hudson, an 18-year veteran home brewer and member of the Wisconsin Alliance of Home Brewers, is a local champion for a change in the law.

"Basically, the law was established pre-prohibition and there was nothing in it about transportation. The department of revenue decided to make its own interpretation that made distribution of homemade beer off the brewer's property illegal," said Fredricksen.

At a state Assembly committee hearing last week in Madison, a spirited debate erupted between home brewers in favor of Senate Bill 395 that would allow home brewers to share their product and representatives of large brewing interests, the Associated Press reported.

Fredricksen was still encouraged the bill will be approved even with challenges from the opposition.

Fredricksen is an official judge and one of 12 members of a local home brewer's club called "Sconnie Suds." Under the strict interpretation of the law, it is illegal for the club to hold tasting sessions and judge who made the best of a certain kind of fermented product.

"You like to brew together with other members of the club and exchange ideas and divide batches," he said.

Fredricksen said tasting and judging contests between brewers at fairs and other competitions that need a larger venue are now prohibited even though such events have taken place before the Department of Revenue interpreted the transportation issue in 2011.

Current law provides for home brewers to make a total 100 gallons of fermented malt beverages or wine a year for one person of legal age in the household or 200 gallons if the residence has two or more persons of legal age if the beverage is not sold or offered for sale.

"With the materials and time involved, making 200 gallons of beer at home is not cost-effective," said Fredricksen, and hardly a threat to any major brewing houses to put a dent in the marketplace.

Rep. Dean Kaufert, R-Neenah, introduced the new bill. "The intent of this is for the little guy to share some beer among friends. I sense the big guys are trying to blow it out of proportion and create scenarios to try to get people riled up," Kaufert told the AP.

Fredricksen acknowledged 90 percent of the craft breweries have been developed from home brewers and home brew clubs continue to increase in numbers.

"Right now America is the best place in the world to drink beer," Fredricksen said.

And the expertise learned from his hobby has come in handy at least for one occasion before the change in the interpretation of the law.

"I made all the beer and wine for my wedding," Fredricksen said.