LEXINGTON — A change this summer in a Kentucky law has allowed the state’s burgeoning microbrewery industry to tap into the fastest-growing alcoholic beverage category in the nation – hard cider.
That’s what Country Boy Brewing co-owner Daniel “DH” Harrison testified to before the Interim Joint Committee on Licensing and Occupations on Tuesday in Lexington.
“Thank you so much co-chair (Sen. John Schickel, R-Union) for championing the cider initiative last year,” said Harrison. “We are extremely grateful for having the support of people like yourself and the committee. We hear horror stories from other states with what happens with micro-breweries and initiatives they are trying to get done.”
Schickel sponsored legislation (Senate Bill 83) that made it legal for microbreweries to produce some types of hard cider.
SB 83 redefined ciders that contained less than 7 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) as “weak cider,” and treated the product the same as malt beverages. That type of cider is not regulated by the Federal Alcohol Act, so the change did not conflict with federal law. That also meant distributors and licensed retailers could sell the weak cider where malt beverages were sold.
“The Kentucky aspect is what is going to make our cider stand out,” said Harrison. “We have partnered with Evans Orchard in Scott County. That is where we are sourcing most of our apples right now. Kevan Evans, who runs the orchard, almost had a heart attack on the phone when I told him how much juice I needed for a week. And that is just to get started.”
The apples are crushed at the orchard and the juice is trucked to Harrison’s brewery, located in Lexington. The brewery has invested more than $100,000 strictly on cider equipment and infrastructure and hired the equivalent of three fulltime employees.
The committee hearing was held at Kentucky Eagle Inc., which is the sole distributor for Harrison’s cider, named Kentucky Proud Cider.
Schickel asked if Country Boy Brewing hoped to expand. Harrison said the brewery has added four tanks strictly for cider. He said the plan was to start bottling, or canning it, next year.
The comeback of cider, which was America’s beverage of choice during colonial times, has been fueled by young professionals in their 20s, Harrison said. Large brewers such as Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors and The Boston Beer Company have all introduced their own brands of cider in recent years.