Grazing: The Sparkling Cider Boom, and Why the CIDER Act Matters
It doesn't take a brain surgeon, or even a food writer, to know that we're in the midst of a hard-cider boom. In Vermont alone, the field has grown from a scant handful of producers a few years ago to more than a dozen today, and the number is growing. A few new companies are set to launch, and established ones — such as Citizen Cider and Eden Ice Cider — keep introducing new, creative products (such as Citizen Cider's Dry-Hopped Cider, shown above).
What's less known is that some of these ciders are taxed at a higher rate than beer and sometimes even wine — that is, when their ciders reach a certain level of alcohol or carbonation. When cider's abv (alcohol by volume) hits 7 percent or higher, cider is taxed as wine; and when its carbonation levels rise above a certain level, it can be slapped with a Champagne-like “luxury” tax of $3.30 per gallon. (Since alcohol levels stem from the sugar levels of a particular year's harvest, keeping those levels low can entail extra work).
Earlier this year, New York Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) designed the CIDER Act, a bill that aims to “modernize the definition for hard apple and pear cider,” as Schumer’s office puts it, and increase the permitted alcohol and carbonation levels in cider without the attendant rise in tax.