The UK alcohol duty laws have just been updated, and whilst it’s made one aspect of them much simpler, even if a lot of those its directly affect don’t think so, the changes have highlighted exactly how messed up and disjointed a lot of the laws related to alcohol are.

A glass of clear sake

Let’s take Sake for example. Firstly, what is sake? It’s a wine yeah? No. Sake is brewed, so technically it’s a beer. But to HMRC it’s neither wine nor beer. In the old system HMRC categorised sake as a “made wine” in the same way that fruited ciders were classed as a made wine, and mead was classed as a made wine. “Made wine” was HMRC’s catch-all category for anything it didn’t understand or hadn’t got around to understanding in the couple of hundred years that the regulations have been about. In the new system they’ve changed that name to “Other Fermented Products” which seems to be their way of giving up trying to keep on top of everything. Beer, Wine, Cider, Spirits, Other Fermented Products.

But this has highlighted a bit of an oddity that has gone unnoticed, or more likely had a blind eye turned because it’ll cause more hassle than they’re currently prepared for.

Whist we know that beer and cider is served in measures of third and half pints or multiples thereof, because the Weights and Measures Act tell us it is, and that wine is served in 125ml, 175ml and 250ml, with sparkling wine served in any measure they like, because it’s not for the hoi polloi, and that spirits are served in measures of 25ml, the Weights and Measures Act doesn’t actually cover Made Wine, or the new Other Fermented Products.

That’s right, there is no legal measure to serve sake or mead in. It’s not like these are new drinks either, mead is arguably the oldest example of alcohol. It’s just that the government never thought to regulate it.

And weirdly, this also applies to fruited cider. Pure apple cider can only be served in thirds, halves and multiples thereof, but as soon as you add fruit to it it’s no longer classed as a cider but rather a Made Wine or now as an Other Fermented Product, and therefore has no legally designated dispense measure. So whilst you can only sell cider by thirds, halves and multiples thereof, you could sell fruited cider by 125ml glasses, or even by the soup bowl if you wanted.