ALCOHOL LAW ADVISOR
ALCOHOL LAW ADVISOR
Regulatory and Distribution Law Updates for the Alcohol Industry
ALCOHOL LAW ADVISOR
Regulatory and Distribution Law Updates for the Alcohol Industry
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Five Tips for Making Boozy Ice Cream That’s Legal

When you think of the relationship between alcohol and food, the classics come to mind: tiramisu, coq au vin and beer cheese. While there is a long culinary tradition of using alcohol in food, the newest trend is to utilize alcohol in innovative ways in the culinary world. Recently, a popular food/alcohol combo has been in the freezer aisle where alcohol has lent its flavor to ice cream and freezer pops. Fans consider this a win-win…it cools us down in the summer and acts as a little adult refreshment at the same time. As the tasty treats gain popularity, more and more states are approving the manufacture and sale of such items.  Recently, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that allows ice cream to be mixed with liquor. He stated this would, “help New York’s dairy farmers, liquor and craft beverage producers, dairy processors and manufacturers, food retailers, and restaurants meet the increasing consumer demand for these new and innovative...

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Non-Alcoholic Beer Regulation 101

As part of the general move to better-for-you beverages, non-alcoholic (NA) options have been and will likely continue to be on the rise. However, how NA is treated, or not treated, as “beer” has significant impact on its potential route to market. The below summarizes the overall treatment of NA beer under US federal law, as well as examples of restrictions on direct-to-consumer (DTC) shipments imposed by certain states. FEDERAL TREATMENT OF NA BEER Tax Treatment: The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau’s (TTB) regulations define “beer” as a fermented beverage containing 0.5% or more alcohol by volume (ABV) and brewed or produced from malt, wholly or in part, or from any substitute for malt. (See: 27 C.F.R. § 25.11.) The regulations refer to a malt beverage containing less than 0.5% ABV as a “cereal beverage.” (See: 25.11.) Because NA beer contains less than 0.5% ABV, TTB will not treat it as a “beer” under the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), and...

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Importing and Exporting Beer

Importing and exporting beer or other alcohol beverages involves multiple levels of government regulation and taxation. Some regulations, taxes, and reporting requirements mirror your existing compliance obligations as a brewery. Other obligations are unique and include government agencies that are not involved in regulating domestic producers, such as US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Commerce Department. The nations you target for selling or importing can have layers of regulations just as daunting as they are in the United States. Multinational trade agreements, treaties and laws at the national, state, provincial or municipal levels may apply to your activities and govern critical topics, including: Excise and other taxes Product classification and tariffs National support for domestic producers and exports Impediments to trade In addition to government regulation, entering new import or export agreements with businesses requires diligence....

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Federal Alcohol Excise Taxes 101

There are many laws at both the federal and state level that govern the production and distribution of distilled spirits. For example, craft distillers must comply with licensing and permitting requirements, trade practice laws, advertising restrictions, and, depending on the jurisdiction, alcohol franchise law. One of the most fundamental—and most complex—areas of law governing distilled spirits is excise taxes. An article authored by McDermott’s Bethany K. Hatef in the Winter 2020 issue of Artisan Spirit Magazine provides a high-level overview of the federal alcohol excise tax system and some specific features that apply to distilled spirits, and also explains the current status of the Craft Beverage Modernization Act, the legislation temporarily providing for reduced tax rates for certain amounts of distilled spirits. Access the full article. Originally published in Artisan Spirit Magazine: Winter 2020.

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Court Dismisses Challenge to TTB’s Rejection of Health Claims on Vodka

In August, the US District Court for the District of Columbia issued its final decision in Bellion Spirits, LLC v. United States, Civ. No. 17-2538 (JEB). The Bellion case was brought by spirits company Bellion Spirits after the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) refused to approve a series of health claims advanced by Bellion in connection with its vodka products. According to Bellion, the infusion of its vodka with a compound called NTX will mitigate the damage alcohol inflicts on human DNA. In 2016, Bellion petitioned TTB to approve eight specific claims related to the NTX-infused vodka. After consulting with the federal Food & Drug Administration (FDA), in 2017 TTB rejected all eight claims. Bellion then brought suit, arguing that TTB’s actions with respect to two of its claims were illegal and unconstitutional. Bellion’s complaint advanced four counts alleging that: TTB impermissibly delegated authority to FDA by consulting with FDA during...

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TTB Label Approval System Survives First Amendment Challenge from DC Brewery

I. Factual Background During the 34-day government shutdown occurring between December 2018 and January 2019, producers and importers of beer, wine and distilled spirits needing label approval to bring new products to market were forced to wait until the shutdown was resolved, when TTB could begin again to process COLA applications. The difficulties presented by this situation included the prospect of needing to destroy valuable, perishable inventory. Unable to obtain a COLA due to the shutdown, Atlas Brew Works (Atlas) filed suit in January in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, challenging the constitutionality of the COLA system. Atlas alleged that the requirement to obtain label approval violates the First Amendment, since, in the event of a government shutdown, the COLA requirement amounted to a prior restraint on protected speech. As the court explained in its opinion, Atlas’s argument boiled down to the claim that “a law that prohibits...

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TTB Publishes New Nonbeverage Product Formula Form

On August 12, 2019, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) published its updated Formula and Process for Nonbeverage Product, TTB Form 5154.1. The Nonbeverage Product approval process is critical to obtain “drawback” (a refund) on most of the alcohol excise tax on distilled spirits used to make such products deemed “unfit for beverage purposes.” The Nonbeverage Formula Form accordingly is important to producers of flavorings and extracts, soft drink concentrates and other non-beverage products made using potable alcohol. Nonbeverage drawback claimants, using the Formula Form, must show that taxpaid distilled spirits were used in the manufacture of a product unfit for beverage use. Today, most formulas are submitted online, although TTB’s National Laboratory in Maryland can still accept paper submissions. Notable features of the new form include: Previously, the Nonbeverage Formula Form requested information specifically if the finished product...

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Cannabis and Hemp Update

Cannabis legalization receives widespread popular support. According to opinion polls, more than two-thirds of Americans support full legalization—a steep rise in support considering that as recently as 2005, almost two-thirds of Americans opposed legalization. The country appears on the path to full cannabis legalization, but until that time, citizens and companies should be aware of the legal risks involved in entering the cannabis space. Access the full article. Originally published in The New Brewer, July/August 2019.

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TTB Publishes NPRMs to Repeal Standards of Fill for Wine and Distilled Spirits

On Monday, July 1, 2019, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) published two eagerly anticipated notices of proposed rulemaking (NPRMs) to largely repeal the standards of fill for wine and distilled spirits containers. The highlights: In the preamble to both NPRMs, TTB advances a number of significant policy beliefs on the topic of standards of fill, including: Standards of fill are no longer needed to help protect the revenue and enforce the excise tax. Standards of fill are not critical to protecting consumers, because consumers can rely on mandatory net content statements on labels. The lack of any standards of fill for malt beverages has not created any revenue or consumer deception problems. For spirits, TTB proposes to eliminate all standards except for a minimum of 50 milliliters and a maximum of 3.785 liters (one gallon). The maximum reflects the Federal Alcohol Administration Act’s statutory maximum for distilled spirit containers. For...

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24th Annual Wine, Beer & Spirits Law Conference

On September 16–17, CLE International will host the 24rd Annual Wine, Beer & Spirits Law Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. Those attending will include the alcohol beverage industry’s leading practitioners, including in-house counsel for producers, distributors and retailers, as well as industry lawyers and state administrators. Conference topics include: Updates on TTB developments and trends An overview of recent developments in alcohol trade practice and trademark law The significance of regulatory compliance, and the state of data security and ownership Updates on the cannabis industry, including the latest legalization efforts and how it could affect the alcohol beverage industry McDermott partner Marc Sorini serves as co-chair for the event and will also present. Other McDermott presenters will be Michael Kimberly and Anthony DeMaio. Click here for the full agenda and registration information.

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