Hard cider has shown phenomenal growth in the past several years. With rising consumer demand, more and more craft brewers are entering this rapidly expanding market. Although hard cider is typically distributed and marketed like a beer product, the federal government and most states actually tax and regulate cider as a type of wine. Brewers contemplating the production of cider accordingly must carefully consider the legal issues surrounding cider production and distribution that distinguish cider from beer. This article outlines some of the most important (though certainly not all) of these issues.
The craft distilling movement is growing rapidly. Indeed, the torrid pace of new distillery openings and the boundless enthusiasm of new entrants seem strangely reminiscent of craft brewing (then “microbrewing”) in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Craft distillers even have a simmering product integrity issue (the use of purchased neutral spirits) that splits the new industry like contract brewing divided craft brewers 20 years ago. There are, no doubt, significant differences, but craft distilling today seems poised for a period of growth like the one craft brewers have been (mostly) enjoying for the past 25 years. Not surprisingly, then, a growing number of craft brewers have followed the path of Anchor Brewing (or should I say Anchor Distilling) and expanded their offerings to include distilled spirits. But as brewers quickly discover, there are numerous legal, regulatory, and tax differences between these related, but distinct, businesses. While a full exploration of those differences could fill a rather thick book, this article briefly highlights the most important.