What is the Washington State Cider Definition?

How is cider defined in Washington State? It's not the same as TTB.
How is cider defined in Washington State? It’s important to know that “cider” here is not the same as TTB.

Washington State law and LCB regulations refer to “cider” from time to time. But, cider is a form of wine. So, where are the lines drawn? When is a product wine and when is it “cider” under Washington State law?

If you’re familiar with alcoholic beverage laws and regulations, then it’s no surprise that beverage definitions at the state level are not often in harmony with ones at the federal level. Moreover, wine laws vary from state to state. Washington State, though, is ahead of the curve in recognizing “cider” as a distinct product category and creating rights and regulations specific to this craft beverage. These advantages are no doubt thanks to tireless work from the Northwest Cider Association, and producers throughout this region. It helps, too, that Washington has the best apples around. But, that gets to our question today. Must a product be made only from apples to be considered cider in under Washington law? More on that in a second.

In any event, for onlookers—or producers themselves—it can be confusing reading “wine” referred to generally in one legislative breath, while “cider” is called out separately in another Washington beverage reg or law. Isn’t cider wine?

Here’s what’s important to know. Yes, all cider is wine. Therefore, only licensed Washington Domestic Wineries may produce cider. But, to take advantage of the specific market inroads created for cider, the product must actually be cider—at least according to Washington state law.

Here’s how Washington law defines cider. Set forth in RCW 66.24.210(6), “‘cider’ means table wine that contains not less than one-half of one percent of alcohol by volume and not more than seven percent of alcohol by volume and is made from the normal alcoholic fermentation of the juice of sound, ripe apples or pears. ‘Cider’ includes, but is not limited to, flavored, sparkling, or carbonated cider and cider made from condensed apple or pear must.”

Therefore, for a Washington brewery (under the base microbrewery license) to be able to now sell “cider” on tap and offer it to consumers for carryout, the product must fit under this legal cider definition.

Before I go, one last note, as a further nod toward Washington State as a leading source of cider laws and regulations. In proposed rule making, the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (“TTB”) heard from ten commenters who suggested that TTB define cider the same way Washington state does above. Specifically, the commenters wanted TTB’s definition to broadly account for a degree of carbonation. TTB took a somewhat different tact, which we’ll cover in other posts. But, for now, keep in mind that what is “cider” in Washington” is not per se “cider” for the purposes of federal labeling or taxation. When a Washington State law permits the sale of cider, in Washington the reference is to cider as defined above.

Danielle Teagarden
Danielle Teagarden
Alcoholic Beverage Attorney at Reiser Legal PLLC
Danielle Teagarden is a Seattle-based alcoholic beverage lawyer, business attorney, and intellectual property advisor with particular focus on protecting trademark rights and handling trademark disputes. Danielle frequently represents craft beverage start-ups and small alcoholic beverage businesses, and she is Author and Editor of both the Cider Law Blog and the Brewery Law Blog. You may reach her directly at danielle@reiserlegal.com

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Washington Cider Guest Taps: Can Washington Cider Producers Pour Beer?

Now Washington breweries can have cider on tap and for carryout. Should Washington cidermakers have the reciprocal right? I hope a 2016 legislative push makes it so.
Now Washington breweries can have cider on tap and for carryout. Should Washington cidermakers have the reciprocal right? I hope a 2016 legislative push makes it so.

Following on the heels of 2014’s tremendous Washington cider growler win with the passage of Senate Bill 6442, the 2015 legislative session was also a respectable year for Washington cider. But, there’s plenty of room left for next year.

Effective on July 25, 2015, House Bill 1342 earned Washington breweries the right to have cider on tap and even sell carryout cider, too. It’s a win for Washington cideries, creating hundreds of excellent new sales outlets and immediate avenues of craft-savvy consumer exposure. That said, House Bill 1342 urges me to ask the question—why can’t Washington cider producers have beer guest taps? Present Washington cider law says no. However, I estimate it wouldn’t take much urging, and the legislature may well giveth, they just haven’t been asked. Perhaps it’s something for the 2016 legislative agenda, as the exploding Washington cider industry looks to build a unified voice and keep gaining ground.

Looking ahead to 2016, the proposed Washington cider legislation would be easy enough to craft, drawing on the would-be parallel provisions already drawn up under the microbrewery license (though, while visiting these provisions, I’d like to see some changes—such as revisiting the pesky 25% rule). Of course, cider producers are licensed under the Washington domestic winery license. So, changes to cider would mean changes to Washington mead, Washington wine, and certain Washington kombucha producers, too. But is that such a bad thing? If Washington breweries can pour and sell cider, I think Washington cideries and wineries ought to be able to pour and sell beer in their tasting rooms. The “old guard” wineries may elect not to do so, but the craft cider producers may well wish to make friends with their brewing brethren, as the friendly and like-minded craft beverage markets cross-pollinate and generate more and more consumer interest. After all, the Seattle Cider Company / Two Beers business model has proven that consumers are eager to come to the source, see what both cideries and breweries are all about, and imbibe on the best of both worlds. It’s something I’d expect consumers would likely enjoy seeing more of—perhaps next year.

Danielle Teagarden
Danielle Teagarden
Alcoholic Beverage Attorney at Reiser Legal PLLC
Danielle Teagarden is a Seattle-based alcoholic beverage lawyer, business attorney, and intellectual property advisor with particular focus on protecting trademark rights and handling trademark disputes. Danielle frequently represents craft beverage start-ups and small alcoholic beverage businesses, and she is Author and Editor of both the Cider Law Blog and the Brewery Law Blog. You may reach her directly at danielle@reiserlegal.com

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