Bubbles – The Cincinnati Wine, Marketed as a Cider, and Sold as an Ale


The original Bubbles can to the left, and the new can.


The craft brew industry has brought some great new innovation in beers and fermented alcoholic drinks, some that blur the lines between categories.    Unfortunately these blurry, boozy new craft drinks have to be categorized by state law to be taxed correctly.     That causes some confusion and problems, like what has recently happened with Rhinegeist’s new Rose Cider they call Bubbles.  It’s  bit of a unicorn in the craft brewing world.

Bubbles is primarily a cider – fermented with apples, but also with added peach and cranberry juice to give it that rose pinkish tone for visual affect and subtle flavor adder.    However innovative and delicious the addition of the fruit juices make it, by Ohio Revised code, they also make it a wine, especially if the fruit juices are used in the ferment.   That means that instead of the 24 cents per gallon tax, it now gets a 32 cents per gallon tax and would drive the price up and out of the increasingly popular cider market.

So, a collector’s item can has been created.  At release the original Bubbles can said “Bubbles –  Rose Cider with Peach and Cranberry.”      That was until the state inspector saw it and now the can reads “Bubbles – Rose Ale.”    I was at Amerasian Restaurant in Covington, Kentucky, last night and had a Bubbles with the original can – I should have kept it for posterity!   Our server gushed at how much she loves Bubbles, when I ordered it.

This type of innovation of crossing lines between categories should be encouraged.     These old Ohio codes, some pre-Prohibition, don’t reflect this brave new world of the craft brew.    And, this exact experimentation of the last several hundred years, adding a little bit of this, a little bit of that, is how all the wonderful categories we enjoy today were developed.

Now Rhinegeist have  made bubbles into an ale – I’m not exactly sure, how – but that means it actually gets less tax than a cider (now 16 cents per gallon vs. 24 cents)  even though on Rhinegeist’s website, they market it as a cider in their “Cidergeist” group of three ciders.    By they Ohio Revised code definition, to be levied as a beer (of which category an ale falls under) the beverage has to be brewed with a malt substance like barley, corn, rice, or wheat.     Now that’s innovation!   Cheers to Rhinegeist for making a superb winey-cider available for the price of a beer!

Nicholas Longworth, the Cincinnati  Father of American Wine would be proud.   He sold a crappy fortified, fizzy Catawba wine as a champagne and won a ribbon in France for it !!


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