California takes an important step to level the playing field between large and small breweries. Small breweries will now be able to produce cider and perry under the same roof. Senate Bill 788 was signed by the Governor on July 21st. This was after both the State Assembly and State Senate unanimously approved earlier.
So what is Senate Bill 788 and what does it do?
SB 788 will now allow breweries that produce less than 60,000 barrels of beer annually, known as a Type 23 license to produce cider and perry without having to get a winegrowers license. This bill goes into effect on January 1, 2024. As the law stands now, only large brewers with a Type 01 license and annual production over 60,000 barrels were permitted to manufacture beer, cider and perry under the same roof.
The bill was authored by State Senator Angelique Ashby of Sacramento County, she stated “now that SB 788 is signed, more than 1,000 craft breweries in California will be able to produce cider and perry under their current licenses” Additionally “this will provide support for small businesses, helping cut through red tape, saving money and time, and letting them produce beverage consumer enjoy”
At first, the thought might have been that breweries would now be able to add their own cider and perry beverages to their tap list, as many have done with hard seltzers and hop-infused water. After talking with local breweries and confirming with the California Craft Beer Association (CCBA), SB 788 will allow the production of cider and perry, but they would still need to go through a distributor for sales and they will not be able to pour them directly from their brewery.
I reached out to the CCBA and Past Chair, Jim Woods of Woods Beer & Wine Company
PD: Has there been any pushback or concerns from small cider/perry producers?
JW: Not that I am aware of. As far as I know, this bill has not seen any opposition. Many don’t understand the distinction between Type 01 Brewers and Type 23 Small Brewers so they may think all brewers can already produce cider/perry.
PD: Will the CCBA welcome in cider/perry producers (that don’t brew beer) into the organization?
JW: I can’t speak for the entire board. Currently, cider/Perry producers (who don’t brew beer) are not eligible to be voting members. We are constantly discussing our membership criteria as the marketplace and brewing industry are constantly evolving. We are first and foremost an organization dedicated to promoting craft beer in California. If it would ever serve our members, the craft beer industry, and consumers to consider expanding membership, we would certainly consider it.
JW: In closing, I think it’s important to realize that all of our small breweries are businesses. Many choose to sell food, merchandise, and other items to ensure their commercial viability. It’s important to look at all potential revenue streams. With rising raw material and labor costs and closing access to market, the brewing industry is an incredibly challenging business environment. It doesn’t do the industry any good for brewers to go out of business. I believe we can still be craft brewers at heart while exploring other complimentary revenue streams.
I reached out to a few northern California cider producers to get their comments and thoughts on SB 788. However, neither chose to provide a response for this article. The fact that breweries will not be permitted to sell cider and perry directly, may lessen the concern that the beer industry is impacting the local cider and perry sales. It will be interesting to see how many small California breweries take on the challenge of these fruit-based fermentations.
All photos courtesy of Woods Beer & Wine Company