TTB Formula Approval – Recent Changes, Part 2

Blog 11, 38, and 39

A few weeks ago, we posted a blog focusing on recent changes to TTB’s formula approval process. These changes were designed to streamline the formula approval process for brewers. While Part 1 of the blog outlined changes relating to ingredients used in production, Part 2 will focus on TTB’s changes to formula approval regarding production processes.

Previously, TTB regulation 27 CFR 25.55 required breweries to “submit a formula for approval by TTB when the brewer intends to produce any fermented product that will be treated by any processing, filtration, or other method of manufacture that is not generally recognized as a traditional process in the production of a fermented beverage designated as beer, ale, porter, stout, lager, or malt liquor.” TTB had previously classified certain processes to be considered nontraditional, including the aging of beer in barrels and/or woodchips that had previously held wine or distilled spirits. The purpose of this “nontraditional” classification was so TTB could review the brewing process to ensure that brewers were not attempting to add wine or distilled spirits into their beers, thereby erroneously changing the tax classification.

In 2006, the Brewer’s Association filed a petition with TTB to exempt certain ingredients and processes from formula requirements. The claim was that in recent years, craft brewers had “revived” many of these processes that had once died out and made them popular in the production of beer. After careful review, TTB ultimately determined that certain processes were, in fact, traditional. These processes include:

  • 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.

Although not all processes are exempt from formula approval, TTB does allow a brewer to make a formal request to exempt a process from formula requirements should it not already be specified in the regulations. The brewer must “submit a detailed description of the proposed process, evidence establishing that the proposed process is generally recognized as a traditional process in the production of a fermented beverage, and an explanation of the effect of the proposed process on the production of a fermented beverage.” Upon submission, TTB will then review the request and make a determination from there.

While TTB has eased some restrictions when it comes to formula approval, strict standards are still employed regarding the labeling of fermented beverages. In general, TTB seeks to ensure that consumers will not be misled by any labels or advertisements concerning beer, wine, or distilled spirits, and that all labels are truthful and accurate. While TTB exempted many brewing processes from formula requirements, brewers still need to be wary of advertising and labeling regulations. Brewers do not need to include an explanation regarding aging on the label. However, should the brewer choose to indicate how it was aged, they need to make certain that if any exempted ingredients were used, they indicate the ingredient on the label. Stay tuned for further blogs explaining inadequate label designations.

We are excited that the government has taken steps to increase efficiency and make the production process less burdensome for producers. Should you have any questions relating to formulas or COLAs, please feel free to give us a call.

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