Hey America! It’s almost your birthday. What better time to take a look back at the past 12 months and reflect on the freedom to fight for your right for righteous craft beer? As craft brewers have grown, so too have the legal growing pains — out-dated regulations, limiting legislation and undefined laws have led to its fair share of brewing business uncertainty. Being the motivated go-getters that you craft brewers tend to be, you got out of your breweries and fought city hall. Check out these big craft beer legal battles:
Senate Bill 186, already passed in the Senate, lifts the problematic requirement that craft breweries operate as tourist attractions, a holdover from the days when the law was intended to benefit Tampa’s Busch Gardens.
The Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act is the latest attempt to cut taxes and modernize regulations for craft brewers, cider makers, vintners and distillers. Proposed by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the legislation builds on a consensus reached among multiple industry groups. And it builds on a number of popular proposals including the Small BREW Act sponsored by Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine); the Fair BEER Act sponsored by Senators Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.); the Distillery Excise Tax Reform Act sponsored by Senator Gary Peters (D-Mich.); the CIDER Act sponsored by Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.); the AGED Spirits Act sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.); and the Craft Beverage Bond Simplification Act, which was approved by the Finance Committee earlier this year. In addition, Wyden’s legislation includes a variety of new proposals to reduce tax and regulatory burdens for each industry.
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.
Everyone’s pals at the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) issued their Quarterly Brewer’s Report of Operations in February, and the instructions to the form, TTB F 5130.26i. The TTB released 5130.26 and 5130.26i in advance of the April 2015 filing date so that brewers could review and familiarize themselves with the new version. Note that this new version of TTB Form 5130.26 replaces the Brewpub Report of Operations version — the TTB will no longer accept the Brewpub version after April 1, 2015.
The manufacture, sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages is heavily regulated throughout the United States, and much of this regulation was born in the aftermath of prohibition. Many of the laws and regulations have remained unchanged from decades ago. The rapid expansion of the craft beer industry has drawn some of these regulations into question, highlighted the need for reform and increased craft beer customers’ awareness of why their favorite brew may not be offered at a particular establishment.
The entities looking to curtail the willy nilly licensing of tasting rooms are looking to do so because tasting rooms represent a circumvention of the three-tier system, which would will lead to “excesses such as overly aggressive marketing, monopolistic practices and intemperance,” according to one petition. And just who is worried about these monopolies being built at these corner bars?
The final guidance, which was issued in draft form in August 2009, follows a 2008 ruling by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) clarifying that certain beers that do not meet the definition of “malt beverages” are not subject to the labeling provisions of the Federal Alcohol Administration Act. Specifically, this refers to beers that are not made from both malted barley and hops but are instead made from substitutes for malted barley (such as sorghum, rice or wheat) or are made without hops. These beers are subject to the food labeling provisions of FDA laws and regulations.