Mead, made from honey, gets its own farm license

 Make way for locally produced mead, the fermented beverage made from honey.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo put out the call on Thursday for applicants for a new farm beverage license for making and selling mead. Previously those who wanted to make mead commercially needed a farm license or a commercial license for making wine.

Until recently, you had to be a winery to make and sell mead in New York.

Mead is made by fermenting honey and water, though fruit, spices, herbs and flowers can also be part of the mix.

“By creating this new license, we are building on New York’s nation-leading craft beverage industry while capitalizing on our standing as the number one honey producer in the Northeast,” Cuomo said. “New York’s craft beverages are second to none, and we are steadfast in our commitment to supporting our local craft beverage producers who are creating jobs, promoting tourism and contributing to the Empire State’s booming economy.”

Until recently, you had to have a wine license to make and sell mead in New York.

A stand-alone mead license might mean a New York honey producer or a potential craft beverage maker could get into the business of making mead with a $75 license, avoiding the higher cost of a winery license and also avoiding the requirement to be located on a farm, as farm wineries must be.  The $75 license requires the mead maker use honey produced in New York State exclusively.

A second kind of mead license, costing $150, would allow honey from outside the state to be used, too. Some honey producers stay close to home, while others transport their bees and hives across state lines to pollinate crops elsewhere.

Similar to other farm licenses, the mead license will allow producers to also sell other New York-produced craft beverages on their premises and establish up to five branch locations where the product could be sampled and sold. The mead license also covers production of braggot, another fermented honey beverage that includes malt and hops among its ingredients.

“Mead is one of the fastest growing segments in the craft beverage industry, and this new license capitalizes on this growth and the increasing demand for New York produced honey,” said Vincent Bradley, chairman of the New York Liquor Authority. “Craft beverage manufacturers and honey producers in New York State will see value added to their businesses, boosting these growing industries.”

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Cuomo proposes licenses for making mead

The drink of hobbits will get its own farm license in New York under a proposal in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget for 2018-19.

The proposal creates a farm meadery license, the latest craft beverage license to join those already available in New York for wine, beer, cider and spirits. Mead is a fermented beverage made from honey, water and other ingredients such as spices, fruits, herbs and flowers.

“New York is the No. 1 producer of honey in the Northeast, and by increasing opportunities for farms to produce mead, our thriving craft beverage manufacturing sector will continue to grow,” Cuomo said. “The creation of the farm meadery license will help strengthen these two great New York industries and further add to our tourism economy, fueling growth in every corner of this great state.”

The mead license would also allow producers to make a malt-based honey beverage known as braggot. The farm license would limit producers to a total of 250,000 gallons of mead and braggot, and would require that they use only honey produced in New York. Similar to other craft beverage licenses, a mead license would allow a producer to have a restaurant and gift shop on site, sell other New York-made beverages, and have as many as five outlets off site.

Assembly member William Magee, D-Nelson, Oneida County, who is chairman of  the Committee on Agriculture, said, “The farm meadery license will open new and exciting markets for New York beekeepers, making it possible for them to expand into the growing tourism economy and flourishing craft beverage trails.”

Though the smallest of the craft beverage industries, mead is also the fastest growing, according to state officials. Between 2003 and 2016, the number of mead makers in the United States grew from 30 to 300. At least three are located in the Finger Lakes, all operating under winery licenses. A farm winery license, however, costs $3,025, while the new meadery license would cost just $75.

As with hard cider, mead could be sold in both grocery stores and wine and liquor stores.

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