Category Archives: Legalities

Legal Drinking Ages

Someone asked me at an event about legal drinking ages, so here’s the word…

The Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information website says this:

“All states prohibit providing alcohol to persons under 21, although states may have limited exceptions relating to lawful employment, religious activities, or consent by a parent, guardian, or spouse. Among states that have an exception related to such family member consent, that exception often is limited to specific locations (such as private locations, private residences, or in the parent or guardian’s home.) No state has an exception that permits anyone other than a family member to provide alcohol to a minor on private property. In addition, many states have laws that provide that “social hosts” are responsible for underage drinking events on property they own, lease, or otherwise control, whether or not the social host actually provides the alcohol.”

First of all, our events are in public places, though it may not feel like it in a quiet park or indoor hall. At events we obey the law – the law of the city/county, state, and nation we’re in.  We don’t have “discreetly damp” sites, they’re either wet or dry, by agreement with the owner. We really can’t afford to lose great event sites, or suffer the hit to our reputation when it comes to renting a site. I’ve seen more than one group thrown permanently off a site over alcohol.

The Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act in 1984, establishing 21 as the minimum legal consumption and/or purchase age.  It’s enforced by state and local authorities, since states stand to lose 10% of their Federal highway funding if they don’t.


Some states allow consumption when a family member consents and/or is present. Presumably, the family member is over 21. States often define exactly which relatives my consent and in which circumstances the exception applies.

Some States allow an exception for consumption on private property. Our events are rarely if ever on private property. In addition to that, some states specify what kind of private property can be exempted – private residences only, the home of a parent or guardian only, etc.  In some jurisdictions, the parent, legal guardian, or legal-age spouse (yikes) must be present.

Some States also allow exceptions for educational purposes (e.g., students in culinary schools), religious purposes (e.g., sacramental use of alcoholic beverages), or medical purposes. This gave me a moment of hope – education is, if not the heart of the Brewers Guild, then the pericardium surrounding and supporting the heart. But no, the law gets into definitions of what “educational purposes” are, and the SCA doesn’t quite pass muster.

So ignore for a moment that Georgia does not limit consumption by the under-age. Virginia and Maryland require both the location and the presence of a supervising relative to be in force. The Carolinas and the District of Columbia make no exceptions at all to the Federal drinking age. SCA events don’t qualify even where exemptions exist, and Federal law trumps all anyway.

Besides, we’d be setting up our young’uns for a fall. Some U.S. states have legislation that make providing to and possession of alcohol by persons under twenty-one a gross misdemeanor with a potential of a $5,000 fine and a year or more in jail.  All it would take is one unhappy park ranger or local policeman.

So card your drinkers, people. Sometimes you can get Troll to do it, and mark people’s hands or persons, preferably in a period way. Don’t leave a tapped keg unattended – have a keg sentinel who cards everyone who comes for a tasty beverage. That person can even stand guard with a spear if they want (as long as they’re not drinking). Carding makes me feel pretty self-conscious, but I’ve never had anyone give me trouble over it.

True story: we were running a big demo at the National Geographic building for the Staffordshire Hoard display. We had something like 750 people come through that day; it was enormous fun. I was staffing a mead/hard cider station, and we carded everyone who came for a sample. I had just carded the man who had the earliest birthdate we saw that day – 1933! This gentleman laughed, and his friend started to josh us about it. We grinned and affirmed we had to. For some reason, I added that you just never know who might be an undercover or off-duty cop. The woman next in line said, “As a matter of fact…I am.” We carded her too.


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State Laws on Alcohol

All of these links were checked and current as of September 18, 2014. We were going to copy the pertinent laws here, but they can be long and there are many clauses that may or may not be of interest to SCAdians – many have to do with the sale of alcohol, which is not part of our activities. Only laws from the states represented in Atlantia are included here.

Special thanks to Baron Drogo Dragonara for researching these.

NORTH CAROLINA:  Note: section 18 and 18a repealed

 SOUTH CAROLINA:  Note repealed chapters.

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Atlantia Brewers’ Guild Charter (2008)

We, the Brewers of the Kingdom of Atlantia, in order to continue the practice of brewing within our fair kingdom, do request that the Crowns of Atlantia renew our guild’s charter. The guild, which shall be henceforth known as the “Brewers’ Guild of Atlantia,” will encourage the practice, research and understanding of brewing within this realm.  The following articles will delineate the purpose, officers, rankings, and potables recognized by this guild.

Article I: Purpose
Section 1: Purposes and Objectives
The primary purposes and objectives of this guild shall be:

  • To provide standardization in the art of Brewing;
  • To provide instruction in the arts of fermentation, infusion, and decoction to any who are interested;
  • To teach the populace the major drink styles and varieties, both period and modern;
  • To provide information to other groups and assist them in their studies;

(e)     To assist the brewers and populace with abiding by the alcohol policies of the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc.

Article II: Membership and Rankings
Section 1: Membership
Membership in the Brewers’ Guild of Atlantia is open to any gentle that resides within the confines of the Kingdom of Atlantia and has expressed interest in furthering their understanding of the arts of Brewing.

Section 2: Ranking System
To further the advancement of knowledge and facilitate technical skill within the Brewers’ Guild of Atlantia, we hereby establish four (4) classes of members:

  • Apprentice: Any brewer of the guild who has demonstrated proficiency in ONE style of the six recognized by the guild. A brewer advances by having brewed one beverage with a score of 75+, judged either formally or informally, by three Atlantian Brewing Guild Judges.
  • Journeyman: An Apprentice brewer advances to the status of Journeyman Brewer by demonstrating proficiency in TWO styles of the six recognized by the guild. A brewer advances by having brewed two beverages of different styles with scores of 80+, judged either formally or informally, by three Atlantian Brewing Guild Judges.
  • Master: A Journeyman brewer advances to the status of Master Brewer by demonstrating proficiency in FOUR or more styles of the six recognized by the guild. A brewer advances by having brewed four beverages of different styles with scores of 80+, judged either formally or informally, by three Atlantian Brewing Guild Judges.

(d)   Brewmaster of Atlantia: An honorary rank that is bestowed by the Guildmaster to those members who are considered to have a lot of brewing experience, are actively brewing and willing to teach others.

Article III: Officers
Section 1: Guildmaster

  • The guildmaster should be chosen from among those with the rank of Master within the Brewers’ Guild. The guildmaster holds the membership listing and rankings for the Brewers’ Guild. The guildmaster shall advise all Brewers as to the nearest teacher recognized by the Guild. The guildmaster will submit a progress report to the Crowns at their Coronation. The Guildmaster is expected to remain active, during their tenure, in order to keep abreast of advancements within the guild.

(b)      If at any time it becomes necessary for a guildmaster to become inactive, s/he is expected to name an interim deputy or to recommend a successor, depending on the expected length of inactivity. Should it become necessary to replace or remove a guildmaster in absentia, the Guild members are to be presented with a list of candidates from among those of Master rank. The next guildmaster is to be chosen by popular vote, with the consent of the Crowns.

Section 2: Inspectors
(a)    Any brewer who represents the guild in their local SCA group. Responsible for: promoting the guild within the group, assisting Autocrats in complying with SCA Alcohol Policy, encouraging new brewers in their group, sponsoring competitions, and reporting local brewing activities to the Guild as needed or at least 4 times a year.

Section 3: Webminister
(a)    The webminister shall be in charge of maintaining the official website for the Brewers’ Guild of Atlantia.

Article IV: Potables

Section 1: Potables
The term “potables” refers to the various styles of brewed beverages and the official categories into which they are to be classed. The charter shall be considered the definitive classification for any guild sanctioned brewing competitions. However, this list is not exhaustive.

Section 2: Style Categories

  • Meads: Covers most drinks with honey as the main fermentable ingredient. These include traditional meads (made with honey and water), metheglins (added herbs and spices), and melomels (fruit and honey).
  • Wines: Includes fruit wines, hippocras and spiced wines (only if the brewer fermented the base wine), and other variants.
  • Beers/Ales: Includes beers, ales, sakes, braggots, and any other potables where  the main fermentable is grain
  • Vinegars: Includes both herb-infused vinegars, fruit-infused vinegars, and vinegars created by the brewer from an alcoholic base and a mother of vinegar.
  • Cordials: Any alcoholic beverage that uses either distilled or fermented alcohol as its base in combination with other herbs, fruit, or spices. This would include liquors and spiced wines (where the brewer did not produce the original base.)

(f)       Non-Alcoholics: Includes fruit, herb, or flower syrups and any vinegar based beverage.

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Cordials and Federal Law on Distillation

In medieval times, herbs and spices were soaked in wine, and the wine then distilled into brandy to make medicine referred to as “cordial”. As enactors interested in alcoholic beverages, we’d love to get as close to this as possible, but close just isn’t very possible.  Federal law is very explicit:

139px-Cordial_Glass_(Footed)_svgBasic Permit Requirements under the Federal Alcohol Administration Act, Nonindustrial use of Distilled Spirits and Wine, Bulk Sales and Bottling of Distilled Spirits

Title 27 > Chapter 1 >Subchapter A >Part 19 >Subpart C Restrictions on Production, Location, and Use of (Production) Plants

§19.51   Home production of distilled spirits prohibited.

A person may not produce distilled spirits at home for personal use. Except as otherwise provided by law, distilled spirits may only be produced by a distilled spirits plant registered with TTB under the provisions of 26 U.S.C. 5171. All distilled spirits produced in the United States are subject to the tax imposed by 26 U.S.C. 5001.

(26 U.S.C. 5001, 5601, and 5602)

Accesssed 8/29/2014 from the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations – Title 27: Alcohol, Tobacco Products and Firearms

You can’t get much plainer than that.

Sorcha here:  Right, so what do we do in our never-ending quest to reproduce the truly medieval fermented beverage? For cordials, the closest we can come:

a) We generally recommend finding white brandy and using it as a base, and adding the laundry list of herbs and spices to it. White brandy is very inexpensive, and doesn’t have flavorings, oak conditioning, or faux-oaking added. Christian Brothers White Frost is a pretty reliable brand.  Made this way, your cordial almost certainly does not taste the same as the original recipe, but flavor wasn’t the point anyway, and this way the ATF doesn’t come knocking.

b) Some recipes just call for herb-soaked wine.  If the recipe says anything about what kind of wine to start with, try to find the closest modern wine you can.  For instance, if the recipe calls for Gascoigne wine, that comes from Gascony, a region in France. Remember however that in the eighteenth century the phylloxera blight killed a lot of grapevines across Europe, and people were spreading cuttings as far and wide as they could to save the grape variety.  Now, a grape grown in France will not taste the same as the same grape grown in California, so it’s nice to find wine grown in the same place the recipe mentions, but that may not be possible. (Gascony does still grow the same grapes – they were some of the lucky ones to escape the blight.)

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Society Policy on Alcohol

Per the SCA Corpora, By-Laws, Corporate Policies, and Articles of Incorporation (revised January 18, 2014)



Manufacturing, distributing, selling, serving, or furnishing of alcoholic beverages by the SCA or its branches or subdivisions is prohibited within the United States and its territories.

The use of any SCA funds for the purchase of potable alcohol, except for such quantities as may be necessary for cooking, is prohibited in the United States and its territories.

Officers are not prohibited from serving alcohol; however, it must be done as individuals, and not as part of their official duties as officers.

Officers are not prohibited from giving gifts of alcohol; however, it must be done as individuals, and not as part of their official duties as officers. Giving or receiving gifts of alcohol in court is not considered to be part of an officer’s official duties.

Sorcha here: I’m not sure a Kingdom Notable like the Royal Brewer counts as an officer, but we might be safer if, rather than “paying taxes” of mead or beer to the Crown, who may or may not appreciate the gift or drink alcohol, we donate beautifully presented bottles to be given as Royal Largesse instead.

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Atlantia’s Policy on Alcohol at Events

Atlantian Book of Policy

Effective August 2014

group of round-bodied glass bottles

Photo courtesy (mostly modern) Bottle Typing/Shapes website: Policy on Alcohol at Events

1.11.1 When a site written contract is silent on alcohol, branches may not publish in any announcement that alcohol is permitted or excluded and may not sponsor activities related to alcohol. In order to have SCA sponsored activities which require the use of alcohol such as brewing and vinting competitions, the written contract must be revised giving permission. Verbal authorization is not sufficient. However, the SCA will not prohibit or monitor the responsible use of alcohol by individuals at these sites.

1.11.2 Site contracts which include alcohol permission may be advertised as such.

1.11.3 Sites with alcohol prohibitions will be advertised as dry sites and the seneschal and event steward will be responsible for maintenance of the signed contract. Exceptions to the contract must be in writing from the site owner or contractual authority.

6.4 Registering Events Site restrictions. Use this block to note any site restrictions such as no open flames, no pets, etc. You must specify whether alcohol is permitted on site.

(Nothing in the following Kingdom Law documents:  Kingdom Financial Policy, Acorn Financial Policy, Kingdom Crusades Financial Policy)

 Sorcha here: The long and short of it is, don’t be a jerk. There is no such thing as a “discreetly damp” site.  Either alcohol is explicitly allowed or it’s not. If the contract doesn’t give us permission, we’re hanging the Society’s ass out there and the consequences are much worse than a spanking.

We used to say “no modern containers”, but who wants to see a modern container at a period event anyway? Bring a pitcher or a barrel if you have brew to share.  Seriously.

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