New License Categories for Custom Wine, Beer, and Cider Making Centers

If you’ve ever thought about making your own wine but don’t have the space, equipment, or even grapes to do so, this law’s for you. On Monday, November 14, Governor Cuomo signed legislation authorizing the establishment of custom beermakers’, cidermakers’, and winemakers’ centers (“custom centers”), where producers may “share space, equipment, and storage to produce quality beer, cider, and wine for home consumption.” Senate Bill 1227B (“S1227B”—same as Assembly Bill 1100B) creates a regulatory framework in which custom centers will operate. The law will go into effect on May 13, 2017[1]. Keep reading to learn about the key provisions of the law.

S1227B, now Chapter 422, establishes special license categories for people who operate custom beer makers’, cider makers’, and winemakers’ centers and sets forth the basic terms of these licenses. Custom centers enable consumers to make wine, beer, and cider for their own personal consumption (i.e., not for sale) without investing in land, labor, or equipment—all of which can be cost-prohibitive. These kinds of DIY businesses already exist, but again, S1227B creates a distinct legal framework for their operation and oversight. Farmers have advocated for custom centers as a way to increase sales of their crops, so the first wave of custom center license applicants will likely be dominated by farmers who grow apples, pears, grapes, and other fruit.

The key features of each license are listed in the table below, and further detail follows. This entry is just a summary; for complete information, see the S1227B page on the Senate website.

Entities have until December 31, 2019, to apply for any of the three custom center licenses. A license obtained on or before the end of 2019 can be renewed. An annual license fee of $320 applies. A farm winery, brewery, or cidery may apply for a license.  Of course, alcoholic beverages must be produced in accordance with applicable state and federal laws and regulations, including limits on the amount of wine, beer, or cider produced. S1227B also contains some administrative safeguards. A custom center licensee must maintain a record of the name, address, and contact information of the customers that have used its facilities and the annual amount of wine, beer, or cider produced by each customer, and the licensee or an official agent of the licensee must be on the premises at all times during the facility’s hours of operation.

S1227B was the Little Bill That Could. Introduced by Senator David Carlucci [D-38] on January 9, 2015, the bill passed the Senate in May 2015, only to die in the Assembly in January 2016. It was taken up again in January 2016 and amended twice before reaching the Governor's desk earlier this month. It will be interesting to see how many custom center licenses are issued beginning in March. I hope to visit a custom winemaking center in 2017!


[1] The law takes effect 180 days from the day it was signed.