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BREW Fest still on despite legal hurdles - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

BREW Fest still on despite legal hurdles

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SHREVEPORT, La. -

A perennial BREW participant, Gary Bruns is bringing ten gallons of his homemade beer to the festival Saturday, and he's not alone.

"There are people that recognize you from last year," Bruns says "It's like a reunion. I don't know everyone of them, but there's some kind of beer bonding that must go on."

Bruns is one of fifty homebrewers included in this year's sell-out event. In total, organizers say there are 180 beers available for tasting this weekend.

Organizers from Downtown Shreveport Unlimited and Red River Revel say they've had to work hard and fast to make sure this year's event even happened. They received word from the Louisiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission just over a month ago informing them of some issues with the law.

"If it's not specifically allowed and says you can do it then the assumption's it's illegal," Commissioner Troy Hebert says of current alcohol-related legislation. "It's totally opposite of what all other laws usually say. [In other areas] if it's not prohibited by law you can do it. Well, the opposite takes effect when it comes to alcohol."

Rumors spread around the homebrew community about potential changes to the event and whether homebrewers could get citations for participating. The worst outcome: BREW wouldn't happen at all.

Organizer Melanie Bacon said she was determined to keep the tradition alive.

"With the homebrewers, we ended up having to apply for the homebrewers to serve," Bacon says of the special licenses they received after ATC contacted them.

BREW heads say the event will also pay for the big-name beers from Glazer's Distributors and Eagle Distributing instead of accepting the samples as donations like they had in previous years. Since BREW acts as a fundraiser for Downtown Shreveport Unlimited and the Revel, the change will affect this year's totals.

By many accounts, homebrewing is a hobby on the rise.

The American Homebrewers Association estimated in 2012 more than a million Americans brewed their own beer.

Appointed to his position in 2010, Hebert acknowledges that the ATC is following the trend but denies a "crack down" on homebrewers.

"The ATC is continuing to try and make sure that the people that sell and consume alcohol are doing it responsibly," Hebert says. "Whether or not in the past those laws were enforced or not, that's was the previous commissioner."

Despite the legal hurdles, samples will be served this Saturday, and Bacon says Brew will be back next year likely with the help of some new legislation.

"We have all the permits," Bacon says. "We know exactly how much we need to pour. We are completely okay with the state. [If] we have to make adjustments to Brew, we have a year to do it, but we will definitely be back next year."

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