Cider: A Sticky Mess

I am an attorney and I represent brewers, distillers, wineries, and others in allied industries.  I got involved in this area of law because I love the industry and the people in it.  It’s incredibly fun to even be tangentially involved in the business. Here’s my office wall (and much more to join it soon):
office posters
As part of the job, I give a lot of presentations and I recently presented to a room full of cider and wine producers about some of the complexities and inconsistencies in the federal definition of cider and the regulations regarding label approval. Everybody seemed to enjoy the ridiculousness of it all.  They especially had fun trying to guess which labels the TTB approved and which ones they did not approve.  One of my favorites:
Rejected because heart image implies health benefit.
As far as the inconsistencies in the definition of “cider” go:
  1. Cider, as defined by the Federal Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), is a fruit wine made from apples.
  2. Hard Cider, as defined by the TTB, is a fruit wine made from apples that is less than 7% alcohol by volume.
  3. Even though “hard cider” is limited to fruit wine from apples that is less than 7% ABV, the TTB will still allow you to call a cider with 7% or more ABV, a “hard cider” on your label.
  4. Hard Cider, as defined by the Internal Revenue Code, is a fruit wine made from apples or pears that is less than 8.5% alcohol by volume.
You can read more about it at the Hoppy Lawyers blog.  This is just the tip of the iceberg.  Sometimes you can call an apple and pear product “pear cider,” but only if the fermentation takes place after the apple and pear juices have been mixed.  If you mix fermented apple wine with fermented pear wine, you absolutely cannot call the resulting product pear cider, but can call it “cider – perry.”  This issue comes down to when and what is fermented.  The complications continue from there, but this gives you a sense of how messy the cider business can be from a regulatory view.
And if you’re interested in checking out a dry, not-too-sweet cider/beer hybrid, check out Sociable Cider Werks in Minneapolis.  They’ve got some great products. At Winterfest 2016 (a beer festival in St. Paul), they had a cherry vanilla bean stout apple graff that was fantastic!
elliotlogo white background
Note from David, founder of Sommbeer;
A couple of years ago I found myself walking through a grocery store in England IMG_20140129_205313_161looking for beer.  It had been a long week in Europe selling industrial equipment and now, incredibly, I couldn’t find a way to fall asleep.  I took my business partner along with me to the only grocery store in town.  I was soon on a quest for English beer.  My partner looked on the opposite side of the store for English cookies (seriously he wanted cookies).  I was soon confronted with a display for cider, then another and another.  They had an entire aisle dedicated to cider and cider/pear beverages.  I was struck with the respect the English gave this product and knew we were missing something back across the pond.  The experience that Elliot had working to help the growers and by extension the cider makers demonstrates that the Cider Tsunami is coming soon to the US.


Lawyer at Hoppy Lawyers
Elliot Ginsburg has been practicing law since 2010. Interested in broadening his practice to include his love of craft beer, spirits, wines, and ciders, he started learning about beer distribution laws and working with two breweries in Minneapolis, Minnesota on a variety of issues, including trademark matters, lease negotiations, and corporate matters. Happily discovering his passion for beer and the law could go together, he launched Hop Law. Elliot provides clients with guidance and assistance in starting and operating their breweries, distilleries, and wineries successfully, and wants to help bring great products to a growing market.

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