Cider Corner: Straddling the Licensing Line

Tim Wells wanted to make hard cider. At the time that he and his wife started to get what has become Deep Roots Hard Cider in Sugar Run, Pennsylvania up and running, there was a line — a gray zone — he had to choose between. A beer/malt beverage license or a wine license.

Wells choose wine and thinks he made the right choice for a few reasons.

Namely, profit margins.

“With ciders booming again in the market, we needed to set ourselves apart from the others,” he explained.  “When we go to wine festivals, we are usually the only hard cider there. We sell a high-quality product so it matches up with some of the wines in the area, but [it’s] different enough that we get the business from people who don’t like beer or wine.”

About four years ago when Wells got the LLC and applied for the cidery’s license, hard cider was in a gray zone.

In Pennsylvania at that time, cider under 5.5 percent alcohol by volume was considered a beer/malt beverage and cider over 8.5 percent ABV was considered a wine product.

“Most apples, especially Northern Spy which we use a lot of, ferment dry at around 6-7 percent,” Wells explained.

So, a total gray zone.

“So [we] either you water it down or add sugars to raise it up to a wine level,” he said. “That is how I have made my ciders for years, wine style, so I went that way.”

Since then the state has passed Act 39, which changed the definition of cider.  Now anything under 8.5 percent is considered beer/malt and over 8.5 percent is still a wine.

Labeling laws also have changed since the cidery opened in 2014.

“We can call our ciders hard cider only if they are made with all apples and other fruit during fermentation, not after,” Wells said. If they add anything after fermentation, then they have to call it ‘apple cider with’ whatever is included instead of just ‘hard cider.’

After two years of selling their hard ciders at festivals and farmers markets, Deep Roots, thanks to the new laws and Wells wherewithal to choose the wine license to start has build a tasting room now.

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