TTB’s Revised Regulations Offer More Flexibility, Clarity Around Advertising and Labeling

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On Thursday, April 2, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) published a Final Rule establishing new or amended regulations for the labeling and advertising of malt beverages (a term that includes all beer produced with malted barley and hops; referenced as “beer” below), wine, and distilled spirits. The revised regulations will provide brewers with more flexibility and clarify existing regulatory requirements, and TTB believes that no current labels or advertisements will need to change as a result of the changes. The new and amended regulations take effect on May 4, 2020.

The TTB initiated this rulemaking project in November 2018, and the Brewers Association submitted extensive comments to TTB on the proposed regulations. The Final Rule published today represents good news for brewers and reflects the position of the Brewers Association on a number of issues. Notably the Final Rule:

  1. Repeals, as requested by the Brewers Association, the current blanket prohibition on “strength claims” on beer labels and in beer advertisements. The change will authorize such common sense labeling and advertising as using “strong ale” as a description for certain beer styles.
  2. Relaxes, as requested by the Brewers Association, the rules towards using the terms “draft” and “draught,” allowing brewers to use these terms freely on labels and in advertisements without showing that the referenced beer is unpasteurized.
  3. Authorizes alternative options – by phone number, website, or email address – for providing mandatory contact information on beer advertisements.
  4. Relaxes the rules on listing alcohol content by weight (instead of by volume) and therefore permits brewers to use labels nationwide that state both alcohol by volume and (as required by some state laws) alcohol by weight.
  5. Adds helpful cross-references to the labeling regulations pointing brewers to applicable Internal Revenue Code and Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulations, where applicable. At the same time, the Final Rule abandons certain references to FDA regulations and standards that The Brewers Association feared could create confusion about the respective authority of TTB and FDA under the law.
  6. Codifies TTB’s current policy permitting personalized labels, making some helpful changes in response to industry member comments.
  7. Provides a new definition of a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) that codifies TTB’s practice of authorizing label changes without the need for a new COLA (so-called “allowable revisions”) via simple announcement on TTB’s website.

TTB finalized the new or amended regulations above in order to quickly rollout those labeling and advertising provisions that liberalized existing rules and would assist brewers. TTB will continue to work on other issues raised in its November 2018 proposed rulemaking and expects to move ahead with additional rulemaking notices in the future.