Cider legislation may help apple growers

iMaffo via flickr
September 10, 2013

LynOaken Farms in Medina is home to an apple orchard and winery. On a
bright and sunny day Wendy Oakes-Wilson takes me on a wagon ride to explore the orchard. She points to signs that tell people which apples are ready for picking on their ‘you-pick-block’.

“You can see our color coordination here. So, the green ones mean go ahead and pick, if it’s yellow you’re on your own, red, I wouldn’t do it, you won’t be happy with it.”

We arrive at the middle of the orchard to meet up with Wendy’s brother and LynOaken Farms General Manager, Darrell Oakes. He explains that there are roughly 300 varieties of apples in the self-harvest section.

“I think the oldest one here is an apple called Decio, it’s from A.D. 450 at the tail end of the Roman Empire in Italy. We also have one called White Winter Pearmain and that’s from the 1200’s in England. Two rows over is an apple called Esopus Spitzenburg, and that is known in the literature as Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple.”

Oakes says growing so many different apples helps LynOaken identify potential varieties for crushing into hard cider.

“If you think back into the 1800’s the majority of the apples were utilized on the homestead were utilized to make hard cider. Quite often trees were planted as seedlings and so whatever came up was what you got, and often times you got fairly astringent, small apples like this one here called Yates, but they made great hard cider, because they had some tannic structure and they were easy to ferment.”

Currently, lawmakers are considering a bill that would update regulations for hard cider businesses across the country. Republican Congressman Chris Collins is sponsoring the legislation called the Cider Industry Deserves Equal Regulation Act or the CIDER Act. He says proposed changes to the tax code would result in additional demand for local produce and relief for craft operators.

“Apples ferment at different alcohol contents. In doing an analysis it seems that 8.5% alcohol content is a more reasonable reflection of hard cider. So, the bill would increase the limit from 7% to 8.5% allowing the hard cider to be taxed more in line with beer. The other issue is carbonation; in some cases adding carbonation improves the taste, but today if you do that it’s taxed and treated as champagne.”

The proposal would also allow cider makers to use pears in cider production, which is currently prohibited. Back at LynOaken Farms, Darrell Oakes says the CIDER Act would make the playing field fairer for its producers.

“One of the things that were looking for in terms of the changes in cider legislation is to kind of bring back the ability for producers to create ciders in various forms and ways from some of these older apples, but also from the more modern varieties.”

Chris Collins expects lawmakers to approve the CIDER Act by the end of this legislative session. In the meantime LynOaken Farms is paying close attention to feedback from customers about which apples are likely candidates for turning into delicious hard cider.