Is Distilling and Brewing Legal in Canada?

Brewing beer and distilling spirits is an age-old culture in many countries. In fact, brewing bad beer got you in bad books, literally and there were serious repercussions to this. This is how highly-valued brewing beer was and it still is, except that laws and regulations have now been put in place to regulate this space for good reasons I would say. 

Let’s revisit Canada. 

What is commonly referred to as moonshine in the U.S is known as shine, screech, or home-brew in Canada. 

Are distilling and brewing legal in Canada?

By and large, the Federal law and provincial regulations on distilling and brewing in Canada are not far from each other. In most cases, they support each other. Secondly, the Federal License is superior to the permits at the provincial level under all circumstances. 

Federal laws on distilling and brewing

In Canada, like in many other countries, brewing beer and wine at home is legal if done for personal consumption or giving out free of charge. In other words, this law prohibits the production of home-made brew for commercial purposes. 

Owning a still for the production of non-alcohol substances like essential oils or water purifications is legal with reference to The Excise Act of Canada. On the other hand, however, it is illegal to own a still or distill spirits at home unless the Federal Liquor License is obtained for these purposes. 

It will be noteworthy to point out that getting this license is very difficult and may only be worthwhile if it is being obtained for commercial and not personal use. 

Regulations for the production of Canadian whiskey

Canadian whiskey is synonymous with rye whiskey as outlined in Canadian law. It is a richly flavored whiskey which was, in the past, made from rye grain mash. It is not a must that Canadian whiskey is made from rye. Still, the government of Canada has outlined the regulations for preparing all the spirits used to prepare Canadian whiskey.  

As outlined in the Canadian Food and Drugs Act, the requirements for producing Canadian whiskey (or Canadian Rye Whisky or Rye Whisky) are that it:

  1. Must be mashed, distilled, and aged in Canada
  2. Aged in small wood for not less than three years 
  3. Must contain not less than 40% of alcohol by volume 
  4. Possess the aroma, taste, and character generally attributed to Canadian whiskey 
  5. Must be manufactured in accordance with the requirements of the Excise Act 
  6. May contain caramel and flavoring 

For this reason, a variety of Canadian Whisky is currently being produced with most being blended to fit the requirement of the character of Canadian whiskey apart from a few brands like Alberta Premium which contains 100% Rye grain with no additional flavors.

Provincial laws on distilling and brewing

While it is not legal to brew beer and wine at home-based one the regulations of the federal government, the provincial boards have the responsibility of regulating this process. 

In most provinces including Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, Brunswick, and several others, making mash is permitted and mash is just alcohol by virtue of it being fermented. This, therefore, means that making alcohol is legal. However, further distilling the mash to produce spirits is illegal. It is also illegal to own a still unless a permit is obtained. Note that, to obtain a permit at the province level, you must first acquire a Federal License.


With the leeway that the regulations of the production of Canadian whiskey provide, a bold new generation of distillers is emerging who are not afraid to tweak into something more flavorful and exciting. This new breed is fast at mastering the art yet still creative in its own way, something that will see the rise of not just special but also high-quality whiskey production in the coming years. On the other side, the fight for the legalization of spirits or a little relaxation of the seemingly rigid laws still continues.

Click here to read about the legality of distilling and brewing in the US.