by Todd Spangler, Detroit Free Press
12:16 a.m. EST December 28, 2015
With business growing, honey wine makers still need to learn how to organize and lobby to get laws changed
WASHINGTON — In the world of craft beer and beverages, Michigan’s mead makers can only hope to someday have the sway in Congress that hard cider makers do.
As Congress left the nation’s capital for the year, it passed a spending bill that, tucked inside it, rewrote the rules on cider, allowing it to have more carbonation and higher alcohol without increasing its per-gallon tax.
It was no easy feat, but the cider makers are organized, with key legislative supporters and Heineken, the world’s largest cider maker, as well as other companies, on board. They even presented their argument to Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation to make sure it passed muster.
Members of Michigan’s growing mead, or honey wine, industry would love to see similar changes — more carbonation in their product, relief from tax rules that make them submit recipes whenever they want to try something new — but say in what’s a relatively new industry, it’s hard to know where to start.
“For a guy who got into this by home-brewing in his basement, it’s a bit overwhelming,” said Brad Dahlhofer, cofounder of Ferndale’s B. Nektar, which seven years after opening in a 1,200-square-foot warehouse now employs 25 people and produces more than 125,000 gallons of mead a year.