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The Government Finally Notices What Craft Beer Is Up To

Eno Sarris, July 01, 2014 -   

The Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has approved changes to the beer laws. Finally. 

In the past, it took special permission to get approval for your beer formula if you included any of the following ingredients: 

Fruits (whole fruits, fruit juices, fruit puree or fruit concentrate) 
• apples • apricots • blackberries • blueberries • cherries • cranberries • juniper berries • lemons • oranges • peaches • pumpkins • raspberries • strawberries 

Spices
• 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 Exempted Ingredients
• brown sugar* • candy (candi) sugar* • chili peppers • chocolate** • coffee (coffee beans or coffee grounds) • honey • maple sugar/syrup * • molasses/blackstrap molasses * • lactose

It's nice that they allowed these exemptions. Finally. The petition they were responding to was seven years old.

They also determined that the following process may be called traditional: 

• Aging beer in plain barrels or with plain woodchips, spirals or staves made of any type of wood. • Aging beer in barrels, containing no discernible quantity of wine or distilled spirits, that were previously used in the production or storage of wine or distilled spirits. • Aging beer with woodchips, spirals or staves derived from barrels, containing no discernible quantity of wine or distilled spirits, that were previously used in the production or storage of wine or distilled spirits, or with woodchips, containing no discernible quantity of wine or distilled spirits, that were previously used in the aging of wine or distilled spirits.

If you want evidence that they are behind on this one, just look to their response: 

TTB also has seen an unprecedented surge in formula approval requests for fruit beers, spiced beers, and beer aged in barrels that were previously used in the production or storage of wine or distilled spirits, illustrating the widespread use and consumer acceptance of some of the ingredients and processes that the Brewers Association identified in its 2006 petition."

Nice of them to repond to being inundated with requests for seven years. 

In terms of practical changes, this might only mean less paperwork for breweries, but it might mean more. During the government shut-down, since many brewers had to wait for approval for their formulas on important beers, they found themselves behind to open the new year. They may be more immune to similar government events in the future. 

In broader terms, this cements the difference between American government's more innovative attitudes towards beer and Germany's more restrictive approach. Now American brewers don't even have to ask permission to put chili peppers in their beer. German brewers can't even call their chili pepper stout beer. 

So it's a strange day. The American government acted very slowly with respect to beer innovation. The American government acted faster than many. 

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