The biggest regulatory issue the Brewers Association is watching right now (aside from trying to pass the Small BREW Act) is the FDA’s final rule on restaurants needing to list calorie information for alcoholic beverages. Paul Gatza provided an update on this issue at the 2015 Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America.
How this could pertain to you: The FDA is going to mandate that chain restaurants (20 or more locations) add calorie information for menu items. Alcoholic beverages were exempt from this originally, but as of now, they are included. This means any beer that is featured on a chain restaurant menu for more than 60 days would need to have calorie and other nutritional information provided.
For one, this could create a reporting problem for small breweries that don’t lab test each beer. Plus, there is variation from batch to batch. How will that be handled? And will there need to be information for each size of beer sold?
Then, there is the longer range impact of beer on menus. Will people now gravitate away from high calorie beer? Will sessions start to take the place of other options?
Another wrinkle: Mixed drinks are not part of this rule. Gatza was unhappy about this and speculated this could mean more mixed drinks chosen as a drinking option as a result.
Gatza said there has been no word on the tolerances of the rule or any updates on possible enforcement. There will be more guidance starting in mid-May. In the mean time, if this rule could affect you, you might want to think about testing your beers for calorie information and even providing that information on your website, to cover your bases.