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In 34 Alaskan Communities Looking to Stop Homebrew Alcohol, Possessing Yeast and Sugar is a Crime

posted 12:46 AM EST, Wed July 20, 2011
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In 34 Alaskan communities, the possession of sugar and yeast is a crime and police are on the lookout for anyone with the supplies and intent to make up a batch of homebrew.

These communities, which have elected to ban the possession and sale of alcohol due to mounting drink related social problems aren’t about to let anyone brew up a batch of homebrewed hooch either, so the 2 ingredients most necessary for illicit alcohol production are now off limits.

While in more temperate climates, fruits and wild yeasts could easily serve as the building blocks of homemade wine or cider, harsher Alaskan weather makes imported ingredients like yeast and sugar necessities for alcohol production.

Police say they’re enforcing the yeast ban, and point to a June 30th arrest on the Bering Sea coast as an example of a typical case whereby officers searched a premises and found a small quantity of sugar along with 7 pounds of yeast in a private residence. When asked what all the yeast was for, the accused man attempted without success to convince arresting officer Sgt. James Hoelscher of his passion for bread baking.

According to Lt. Christopher Thompson of the Alaska State Troopers' Western Alaska Alcohol and Narcotics Team, claiming a need to make bread is the most common unreasonable excuse given. He explains, "We'll ask the questions, 'How much yeast does it take to bake a loaf of bread,' and you'll get an answer like, 'Oh, a cup, I mean, it takes like a tablespoon, so that makes no sense. These cases, it's not criminal masterminds.”

When asked why so many communities have taken the extreme steps to ban alcohol and the even the supplies needed to make alcohol, Sgt.  Hoelscher explained that in rural Alaska, 90% of crimes are alcohol related, and said, “We hope to stop or prevent and hinder people from committing felonies by manufacturing and selling home-brew, because as everybody is much aware, alcohol is the bane of Western Alaska and it has caused more deaths and heartbreak than anything I can imagine."

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Story Highlights
  • Alaskan Alcohol Ban: 34 communities in Alaska have banned the sale and possession of alcohol.
  • No Sugar or yeast Either: And because alcohol is easily made with sugar and yeast, the possession of either with the intent to brew is also a crime.
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