Tag Archives: Laws

Not a Matter of Being Gluten Free

A few weeks ago I took a couple of bottles of cyder to my fencing club for the post-fencing pizza party crowd to try. One was the 2013-14 Solebury, Sugar, Raisins, and cider yeast (based on Smith’s 1728 receipt) and the other was the 2014-15 honey wheat cyser (from John Nott’s 1723 receipt).

Everyone (well, almost everyone) had nothing but nice things to say about both. But the honey wheat was the bigger hit, as judged by the flattering language used to describe it. Modesty (and a poor memory) forbids repeating them here.

Thus the honey wheat cyser continues to be a fan-favorite among family, friends, and strangers. Based on these unscientific surveys, it’s a good contender for Blackledge Winery to produce.

But alas, no. It can never be made for sale.[1] It contains wheat and according to Federal regulation Title 27 – §24.200 General it is illegal to have grain, cereal, malt, or molasses in a bonded winery space, much less in the wine (or cyder).

No idea why this is the case. Attempts to gain clarity from various government agents have so far proven futile. Needless to say, it can never be, no matter how tasty it is.



  1. Same goes for the Penn cider (based on a 17th-century receipt from Gulielma, William Penn’s first wife), which also uses wheat. And yes, we could make the honey wheat cyser without the wheat, but then it’s just cyser. Though a wheatless Penn is a possibility.

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New Cider Laws (Maybe)

Currently there are two revisions, one Federal and one state, under consideration which would change the definition of hard cider (as well as the tax rate and required maker’s license) and hopefully make it easier to produce cider.

IRS SealAt the Federal level there’s H.R. 600: CIDER Act. While it seems to continue to refer to cider as a wine, it expands the definition of what hard cider is. Perhaps the most important change redefines cider as anything from 1% to 8.5% ABV. For comparison you can read the complete current law here.

Pennsylvania, my home state, introduced House Bill 483, which also expands the ABV range. Pennsylvania’s proposed ABV cap is 14%, but still allows cider to be taxed at the lower beer rate (I think. These things aren’t as clear one could wish).

Both pieces of legislation need to be vetted and voted on. Stay tuned.

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How Many Apples Does It Take To Make a Bottle of Hard Cider?

According to Angry Orchard’s new commercial (you can find it here) there are two apples in every bottle of their cider. Two whole apples.

I’m assuming they mean what amounts to the juice from two apples, since we usually associate a volume of juice with so many bushels of apples and not so many individual apples. Why they feel the need to say this remains unclear, though I would hazard a guess that it makes their product seem more wholesome. I dunno. But the commercial raises an interesting question: how many apples does it take to make hard cider? Or, more precisely, how much apple juice is in a bottle of hard cider?

Let's consult the oracle... the internet that is.

Let’s ask the oracle… the internet that is.

There is a legal definition which lays out the minimum amount required. According to Federal law hard cider only needs to consist of 50% apple juice or the equivalent of reconstituted juice concentrate.[1] The rest can be water, preservatives, adjuncts (flavorings), or whatever else that’s deemed edible.

You probably don’t know any of this because legally no one has to tell you. Federal labeling laws for beer and hard cider (defined as any alcoholic beverage with an ABV of 7% or less) and wine (an ABV between 7% and 24%) don’t require the exact ingredients to be listed, much less their proportions.[2] Labels also don’t have to include which yeasts or fining agents were used. The latter can be a problem for consumers since some finings can cause allergic reactions or are contrary to one’s lifestyle (for example isinglass and gelatin are both derived from animals and are vegan-unfriendly).

The label does have to say whether something has sulfites or certain coloring agents, but that’s about it. The rest of the mandatory label info is essentially concerned with who and what to tax.

Since there’s no law compelling them and no profitable reason to do so, cider companies tend to not reveal their recipes.

So how much apple juice is actually in every hard cider you drink? The world may never know (but it’s safe to say at least 50% will be).[3]


1. Title 27 → Chapter I → Subchapter A → Part 24 →, Subpart B—Definitions → §24.10 Meaning of terms → Hard Cider

2. Labeling laws are overseen by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, Department of the Treasury (did you think it was the FDA?). You can find the links to the relevant laws here:

For wine see Title 27 → Chapter I → Subchapter A → Part 4 → Subpart D—Labeling Requirements for Wine → §4.32 Mandatory label information.

For malt beverage see Title 27 → Chapter I → Subchapter A → Part 7 → Subpart C—Labeling Requirements for Malt Beverages → §7.22 Mandatory label information.

3.Unless you go to Great Britain, where it’s a minimum of 35%.

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