November 26, 2016
The MEAD Act stands for the Mead Equality and Definition Act. It was introduced into the United States Congress and referred to the House Ways and Means Committee on September 13, 2016 by Representative Mark Sanford (R) from South Carolina, and was co-sponsored by Representative Paul Tonko (D) from New York on September 26th, 2016. The MEAD Act is based on the efforts of the American Mead Makers Association (AMMA) to achieve tax equality for producers of mead, and to eliminate certain federal restrictions which will allow mead to compete with other alcoholic beverages. The AMMA members are made up of commercial mead makers, suppliers to the mead industry, and the consumers who enjoy drinking mead as their alcoholic beverage of choice.
Read the details of the Act here: https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/6000
The goals of the MEAD Act are explained in the section below.
Fix the Definition of Mead
We want to replace the government’s narrow definition of mead (a honey wine that is sometimes made with hops), to one that represents what is generally accepted by the commercial mead makers, and the general consumer population. The definition would:
Allow, in the production of mead, the addition of wholesome fruits (including fruit juices, fruit puree, fruit extract, or fruit concentrate), vegetables, spices, and other ingredients suitable for human food consumption that are generally recognized as safe for use in an alcoholic beverage, but only to the extent the addition thereof contributes to less than 50 percent of the total Brix of the mead.
Eliminate the Formula Requirement
Eliminate the requirement for all meads to have a recipe submitted to the Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) for approval. If a mead is made with the ingredients allowed in the new definition of mead, then there should be no requirement to submit a recipe, known as a “Formula”. The government currently requires an approved formula before a meadery can begin production. This is a big problem because:
- The Process is Slow: Formula approval takes at least 30 days if submitted online and can be much longer if the government has a lot of formulas to review.
- It Delays Production: Meads can take a long time to make, and they can’t begin making a mead until the recipe has been approved. So it forces an unnecessary delay in the production process.
- It Adds to the Cost of Mead: The added planning and delay is an expense to the meaderies. Rent, utilities and payroll are still due, but waiting on a formula to be approved delays revenue to support the business. This cost ends up going into the cost of the bottle to the consumer, making mead more expensive than it should be.
- It Stifles Creativity: Many meaderies want to explore and innovate to provide something fun and exciting to the mead drinkers. This is something the craft beer industry does continuously and is a part of its culture. If mead can not enjoy these freedoms then it will always lag far behind the beer culture. Imagine if restaurants couldn’t change any recipes or create new dishes unless it first got them approved by the government. How do you test new products in the market quickly?
Make Mead with ABV Levels Equal to Wine
The TTB currently only allows mead to be made between 0.5 and 14% ABV. The Act will allow meaderies to produce meads within the same range as wine; 0.5-24% ABV
Equal Taxes for Carbonated Meads
The tax on mead skyrockets when mead makers add carbon dioxide (CO2) gas to a mead to make it carbonated. Tax on carbonated meads jump from $1.07 per gallon to $3.30 – $3.40 per gallon (depending on method of carbonation). That’s $0.674 per 750ml bottle. The added cost is charged to the wholesaler, and by the time it reaches the consumer, the tax can cost the consumer $1.40 more per 750ml bottle after additional state taxes and markups.
The Cider industry is already allowed to carbonate their products without a carbonation tax penalty, and they also pay a lower tax rate on lower alcohol ciders (below 8.5% ABV). We are only looking for equality. Our language matches that of the Cider tax.
Fortification is the process of adding distilled wine spirits to wine. This is how modern Port wine is made. The wine spirits are added after or during fermentation. When added during fermentation, the increased alcohol levels half the fermentation process and leave the wine more sweet. Allowing meads to be fortified like it’s wine cousins will allow for a greater variety of products to be available to the consumer, and stabilize the mead for long-term aging at the meadery.
Okay, How do I Help
For the MEAD Act to succeed, we need to get the US Congress to vote on and pass it before it can move to the Senate for another vote, and then off to the President to sign it into law. This might sound hard, and it is, but if we all do a little work, this is very achievable. In 2015, the hard cider industry got the CIDER Act approved in very much the same way. We can do this!!
Contact Your Congressperson
We need to stir up support for the bill. The first way to do this is to get your congressperson on board, and preferably become a co-sponsor (See Contact Info. section at bottom for Rep. Sanford’s staff contact person). This is the single most important thing you could do.
Find out who your congressperson is, and write to them.
You can find your congressperson here: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
When you find your representative, click on their name and you should be taken directly to their website.
Most (if not all) members of Congress have a Contact Us/Me on their website. They may also have a way of requesting a meeting. At the very least, send an e-mail or make a phone call asking for their support for the MEAD Act. Reference H.R.6000. You could even copy and paste the About the MEAD Act section above to save time.