Illinois craft brewers could soon make mead if new State Senate bill passes.

Illinois craft brewers could soon bring us one step closer to Ragnarok if they get their way with Illinois Senate Bill 2551. Under SB 2551, craft brewers (those holding Class 1 brewer and Class 2 brewer licenses but not general brewers) would be granted the right under Illinois law to make mead in addition to beer. The manufacturing would still be subject to federal requirements, so a winery premises is still a federal requirement, which means you’ll be achieving an alternating premises to be able to make both beer and honey wine (mead) as a craft brewer in Illinois if you’d like to.

The proposed bill allowing Illinois craft brewers to make mead was introduced on January 29 by Senator Jason A. Barickman you can find the full text (along with any future amendments) and track the progress of the Illinois craft brewer mead bill here.

In addition to granting Illinois Class 1 and Class 2 brewers the right to make mead, it would also allow the Class 1 brewers to self-distribute their honey wine in the same fashion they’re allowed to self-distribute their craft beer in Illinois.

For those of you scratching your head about this, remember that honey wine (mead) occupies an odd position under federal regulations as it’s not a fruit-derived fermented beverage but is lumped in with wines pursuant to 27 CFR 4.21(f) as a wine made from “other agricultural products (and it is specifically referenced as such in the Beverage Alcohol Manual).

Since the culture for mead appears closer to that of craft brewing, many brewers would enjoy the opportunity to produce mead. The federal divisions regarding wine, malt beverages, and spirits are handy for federal taxation purposes, but states are allowed to also delineate how their licensing works and granting the right to make mead would lessen the burden on craft producers that may want to try their hands at multiple beverages but cannot afford the costly endeavor of paying for multiple licenses from the state – especially when they may just be looking to experiment.

Let’s hope Illinois’s craft brewers get this done so the mead can flow. 

For those of you interested in knowing more about how the TTB treats mead (honey wine) you can read the TTB’s 2015 FAQ on honey wine (mead) here.

The mead FAQ is filled with useful information on making honey wine and the regulations that apply to the manufacture of mead such as:

  • HW1: What is “honey wine” under the IRC? Honey wine is classified under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (IRC), as an “agricultural wine.” Agricultural wine is made from the fermentation of an agricultural product other than the juice of fruit. (See 27 CFR 24.200 and 24.203.) The production standards under 27 CFR part 24 for honey wine apply only to domestic products. The IRC does not allow for the use of coloring or flavoring materials (other than hops) in standard honey wine. (See 26 U.S.C. 5387 and HW14 for more information.) Furthermore, wine spirits may not be added to standard honey wine, and standard honey wine may not contain more than 14 percent alcohol by volume. The IRC does provide for the production of wine specialty products that are made from a base of honey wine. These products are not standard agricultural wines, but are instead classified under the IRC regulations as “other than standard” (OTS) wines. (See 27 CFR 24.218.)
  • HW9: How do I label a wine that is fermented from both honey and a fruit (such as cherry)? A wine fermented from both fruit juice and an agricultural product does not fall within any of the standards of identity in 27 CFR part 4. This type of wine must be designated with a truthful and adequate statement of composition in accordance with 27 CFR 4.34, such as “cherry-honey wine” or “cherry mead.” The wine also may be labeled with a distinctive or fanciful name, such as “Cherry bee.”
  • HW21: Do I need to obtain a permit from TTB to produce honey wine (mead) for commercial purposes? Yes. If you are producing wine (including mead) that is at least 0.5 percent alcohol by volume for commercial purposes, you must first establish winery premises, obtain a bond, and receive permission from TTB to operate. (See 27 CFR part 24, subpart D.) In addition, the FAA Act requires that anyone wishing to engage in the business of producing or blending wine (including mead) that contains not less than 7 percent alcohol by volume must first obtain a basic permit from TTB. (See 27 CFR part 1.) A basic permit under the FAA Act is not required for producers who only make wine that is less than 7 percent alcohol by volume.

Ashley Brandt

Hi there! I’m happy you’re here. My name is Ashley Brandt and I’m an attorney in Chicago representing clients in the Food and Beverage, Advertising, Media, and Real Estate industries. A while back I kept getting calls and questions from industry professionals and attorneys looking for advice and information on a fun and unique area of law that I’m lucky enough to practice in. These calls represented a serious lack of, and need for, some answers, news, and information on the legal aspects of marketing and media. I've got this deep seeded belief that information should be readily available and that the greatest benefit from the information age is open access to knowledge... so ... this blog seemed like the best way to accomplish that. I enjoy being an attorney and it’s given me some amazing opportunities, wonderful experiences, and an appreciation and love for this work. I live in Chicago and work at an exceptional law firm, Goldstein & McClintock, with some truly brilliant people. Feel free to contact me at any time with any issues, comments, concerns… frankly, after reading this far, I hope you take the time to at least let me know what you think about the blog and how I can make it a better resource.

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