TTB Gets it Right on Formulas

We received great news out of the U.S. Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). In Ruling 2014-4, TTB has added over 30 new ingredients to a list that will be exempt from formula requirements going forward. Specific fruits and spices and listed other ingredients will no longer require the time and paperwork in a formula submission to TTB prior as an additional step to applying for a certificate of label approval. In addition, TTB is also exempting the process of using wood barrels that were previously used for wine or spirits from the formula process. There is language in the ruling that requires brewers to clearly identify the exempt ingredients on the label or as part of a name that has trade understanding for the type of beer.

In 2007, TTB accepted the Brewers Association’s petitioned Formula exemptions for brown sugar, candi sugar, use of new barrels and use of new wood chips. The rest of the petition did not advance until June 5, 2014. The new list of fruits exempt from Formula requirements is:

  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cherries
  • Cranberries
  • Juniper berries
  • Lemons
  • Oranges
  • Peaches
  • Pumpkins
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries

The new list of spices exempt from Formula requirements is:

  • Allspice
  • Anise
  • Pepper/peppercorns
  • Cardamom
  • Cinnamon
  • Clove
  • Cocoa (powder or nibs)
  • Coriander
  • Ginger
  • Nutmeg
  • Orange or lemon peel or zest
  • Star anise
  • Vanilla (whole bean)

Other new ingredients exempt from Formula requirements are:

  • Chili peppers
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Honey
  • Maple sugar/syrup
  • Molasses/blackstrap molasses
  • Lactose

With the exception of brown sugar, candi sugar, maple sugar/syrup and molasses/blackstrap molasses or beers aged in/with wood from previously used wine or spirits, the brewer is required to list the fruit or spice or other ingredient on the label or name the beer where there is a trade understanding of what is in it. An example given by TTB is a beer aged in a whisky barrel made with honey could be labeled as ““Honey ale aged in a whisky barrel,” “Aged honey ale, or simply, “Honey ale.” However, “Whisky barrel aged ale” or “Ale” would not be sufficient for an ale brewed or flavored with honey.”

The process that led up to this ruling started over 8 long years ago. The Brewers Association, with significant assistance from Marc Sorini at McDermott Will & Emery, originally petitioned for these formula exemptions in May 2006. In December 2007, TTB exempted just a few of the requests, specifically use of new wood barrels, use of new wood chips, brown sugar and candi sugar. As the craft industry and common use of more of these ingredients grew, and TTB resources shrank with smaller government, and so many COLA and formula submissions inundated TTB headquarters, TTB re-examined the BA’s petition and approved the new exemptions. I see this ruling as a huge victory for craft brewers and a greater alignment of a key regulatory agency with common sense and a willingness to be open to change. This victory is a clear benefit of your Brewers Association membership.


Paul Gatza is the director of the Brewers Association (BA), a not-for-profit trade association whose purpose is to promote and protect American craft brewers and American craft beer and the community of brewing enthusiasts. Paul is a member of the association’s Brewpubs, Technical, Communications, Market Development, PR & Marketing and Government Affairs Committees.

Paul’s origin in the beer community started when he took up homebrewing in 1990. He worked on the bottling line at Boulder Beer and would sneak over to the brewhouse when opportunity allowed. He owned a pair of homebrew supply shops in Boulder and Longmont, Colorado from 1994 to 1998. He served as director of the American Homebrewers Association for 7 years and is in his 15th year as BA director. Paul is ranked as a National Beer Judge by the Beer Judge Certification Program. Paul is also a former judge director of both the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup, before moving to the judge panels for these elite competitions.

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