Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s fiscal year 2019 budget includes a proposal to create a license for farm meaderies, a new license similar to those already available to farm wineries, breweries, distilleries and cideries.
Mead, commonly referred to as “honey wine” is an alcoholic beverage that is created by fermenting honey with water, which can be infused with fruits, spices, herbs and flowers.
“New York is the number one 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 farm meadery license will authorize the establishment and licensure of farm meaderies for the manufacture and sale of mead made from New York state produced honey. The provision also allows farm meaderies to produce “braggot,” a malt beverage made from honey, in addition to malt, hops, fruits, spices, herbs and other agricultural products.
In order to obtain a farm meadery license, the mead or braggot must be made exclusively from honey produced in New York state and no more than 250,000 gallons may be produced annually. Farm meaderies will be allowed to sell by the glass, offer tastings of, and sell to go not only mead and braggot, but also any state farm-produced beer, wine, cider and spirits.
As with other New York farm licenses, farm meaderies will have the privilege of self-distribution, in addition to the ability to market and sell their products through existing wholesalers. Farm meaderies will also be permitted to open restaurants and gift shops, and have the ability to operate up to five no-fee offsite branch stores anywhere in the state, officials said.
As with New York manufactured hard cider, New York mead will be sold in both grocery stores as well as liquor and wine stores. The annual cost for the new license is $75. Currently, only farm wineries, which must be located on a farm, and commercial wineries, which cost $3,025 in licensing and bond fees, may produce honey wine.
A 2017 industry report compiled by the American Mead Makers Association found that the number of meaderies in the U.S. increased from just 30 in 2003 to 300 in early 2016. In addition to strengthening New York’s thriving craft beverage sector, the creation of a farm meadery license will also further support honey production in New York.
New York remains the number one honey producer in the Northeast, with honey production steadily rising over the past five years. The total value of New York’s honey production was nearly $12 million in 2016, growing by over $1 million from the 2015 and increasing by over $6 million from 2011.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, for beekeepers with five or more colonies, New York honey production grew by 33 percent, from 2.74 million pounds in 2011 to 3.65 million pounds in 2016. Additionally, crops such as apples, cherries, blueberries, squash, pumpkins, and others rely heavily on the presence of pollinators, with New York’s honeybees pollinating nearly half-a-billion-dollars worth of farm crops each year.
“New York state excels at a lot of things—producing honey and craft beverages are two of them,” said state Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball. “As we’ve seen with the boom in beer, wine, spirits and cider production, there’s a high demand for fresh, top-quality ingredients and producers are finding them at their local farms … This new license will continue to strengthen those connections.”