May 25, 2023 - Politics

The push for boozier cider

Animated illustration of four different kinds of beers.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Cider makers in Massachusetts want to make boozier beverages without having to pay higher taxes, and Gov. Healey has their backs.

Driving the news: Healey wants a change to the excise tax on hard cider to let makers go up to 8.5% alcohol by volume and still be taxed only 3 cents per gallon.

  • Currently, ciders over 6% alcohol by weight get taxed $1.10 per gallon.
  • The tax relief for cider producers would cost the state $300,000 a year, according to a Healey spokesperson.

Why it matters: Higher-alcohol "imperial ciders" are the hot new trend in the market, and local makers want to get in on the action without having to pay more to the state.

Healey has said the change would help promote ciders that are made locally. And cider makers argue it would put boozy ciders and high-ABV beers on a level playing field at the package store.

Soham Bhatt from Artifact Cider Project in Florence and Cambridge told Axios the change to 8.5%, a plan also backed in a bill by Salem Sen. Joan Lovely in a bill, would work better with how apples grown in the area naturally ferment.

  • A natural cider using New England apples, he said, can ferment above the 6% limit and cause state taxes to skyrocket, frustrating the maker.

Where it stands: Lovely's bill was heard by the Revenue Committee in March and could still have a shot at passing later this year.

  • But Healey's attempt at changing the law has already been rejected by lawmakers who decided to leave it out of this year's budget.

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