Why Federal Regulations Have Completely Restricted Hard Cider Making

IMG_0083You ever want to own a hard cider operation? Well there is one major hiccup that does not get enough discussion with hard cider makers, a hiccup that actually allows home brewers to make the best hard cider.

Title 27: Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms  §24.10 “Hard cider. Still wine derived primarily from apples or apple concentrate and water (apple juice, or the equivalent amount of concentrate reconstituted to the original brix of the juice prior to concentration, must represent more than 50 percent of the volume of the finished product) containing no other fruit product nor any artificial product which imparts a fruit flavor other than apple;containing at least one-half of 1 percent and less than 7 percent alcohol by volume; having the taste, aroma, and characteristics generally attributed to hard cider; and sold or offered for sale as hard cider.”

Limited to seven percent ABV? That’s a bit nasty, but I can work with that though. No other fruit product? That’s a killer. What is worse is that it’s still very vague if you are allowed adding virtually anything to your hard cider and it being viewed as hard cider for law purposes. Citric acid, honey, sugar, and fruit other than apple might kick it into another wine classification, regardless of the ABV.

Why is this so important? Because wines are taxed at about four times ($1.07/gallon) as much as hard ciders ($.226/gallon) . Oh and let’s not forget carbonation, if you have carbonation too high, you are looking at a huge jump in taxation, because of course that’s now a champagne ($2.60 – $3.40/gallon).  You also will likely have to familiarize yourself with new law and possibly regulations.

There are bills out there trying to add pears into the mix and too boost the ABV to 8.5% from 7%, but the issue here is to make an unique true craft hard cider or cyser, you need additional components other than apples. Honey, fruit flavoring, and spices are great ways to generate an amazing product. All of which are big no-no’s.

The only real mystery is how are commercial cider makers such as angry orchard calling their produce hard cider if it has anything added to it? Is there a loophole if you add it after the completed fermentation? It’s very common to see things such as ginger or cinnamon for instances, substances that appears to not be permitted in hard ciders. Maybe they are just paying the wine tax and still referring to it as hard cider? It’s unclear, but I intend on finding out.

But rejoice, you are a home brewer. Put honey in your primary and flavorings in your secondary. Make unique hard ciders that would do circles around commercial manufacturers. Don’t worry about taxation or complex code that seems to completely deficient and vague. Brew to your heart content.



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