TTB Expands Allowable Changes to Labels without Resubmission, but Reminds us that One Label “Does Not (Necessarily) Fit All”

Certificate of Label Approval (or COLA) can be one of the more frustrating processes for brewers.  Each label must be approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).  Once the COLA is issued, only certain, limited changes can be made to the label without resubmitting it for new approval.  In many situations, there are state requirements that must also be met.

Until March 26, 2018, there were only 34 categories of label revisions that could be made without a new application.  On March 26, 2018, the TTB issued Industry Circular Number 2018-2, which amended an existing category and added three new categories of label revisions that may be made without submitting a new application (click here for the full list of categories). (more…)

Opening Day Edition: Beer Advertising and Sports

Today (March 29) is baseball’s opening day and beer and baseball are in the news.  The New York Yankees appear to be in trouble for their new “Pinstripe Pilsner” which has an image of your favorite Yankee player in the foam.  But those of you wanting to take a sip of Aaron Judge’s mug may have to wait, since MLB does not allow current players on beer advertising.

Beer has been linked with baseball for as long as baseball has existed.  In fact, the original Cincinnati Redstockings left the National League in 1881 when its brewer-owner refused to sign a “no beer at the ballpark” pledge.  Today, there are still calls to take the suds out of sports.  But knowing the current do’s and don’ts of sports advertising will help you stay a-head of the game. (more…)

A Different Kind of Bud: Cannabis in the Alcoholic Beverage Industry

Last week, on March 22, 2018, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission issued an Advisory on cannabis in alcoholic beverages. Here is a copy of the  Cannabis in Alcohol Advisory. While retail sales of cannabis are expected to be lawful under Massachusetts law (while still an illegal schedule I drug under federal law), as of July 1, 2018, the Commission noted that “it will remain unlawful to manufacture and/or sell alcoholic beverages containing any cannabinoid extracts, including tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”) and cannabidiol (“CBD”), regardless of whether it is derived from the cannabis plant or industrial hemp.”

Specifically, the Commission noted that “Cannabinoid extract from the cannabis plant is considered a Schedule I drug by the Drug Enforcement Agency” and “[i]nfusing or otherwise adding cannabinoid extract in alcoholic beverages is considered adulteration of alcohol” under Massachusetts General Law chapter 270, chapter 1.  The Commission notes that in addition to being considered an adulteration of alcohol under Massachusetts law it would also likely be a violation of the federal Food and Drug Administration’s Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, as “A food shall be deemed to be adulterated . . . [i]f it bears or contains any poisonous or deleterious substance which may render it injurious to health . . . .” 21 U.S.C. § 342(a). (more…)

Are We Saying Goodbye to the Beer Babe?

The #MeToo movement has produced constant headlines and has helped positively change corporate culture. Is it possible for its breadth to include beer ads? Sexist beer ads have traditionally been the norm. Give a scantily clad gal a beer bottle, have her hold it to the camera, give a seductive wink, and voilà, you’ve created a beer ad. You may laugh but take a look at the Miller “Service With a Smile” ad depicting a girl in a bathing suit working under a car.  Or the Schlitz ad featuring a Playboy Playmate and its new “Tall Boy” can with the line, “Here’s to Big Cans!” Or perhaps the raunchiest ever, the Falstaff Beer ad with a pic of the can next to the girl, “Beer v. Girl. At least the beer cannot change its mind once you get its top off.” (more…)

Trump’s Tax Plan WILL Affect You – But How?

On December 22, 2017, in one of the fastest-moving pieces of legislation to come across a President’s desk, President Trump signed into law a bill generally known as the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.” The Act will undoubtedly affect most individuals and businesses beginning with the 2018 tax year. Verrill Dana’s Tax Practice has prepared a comprehensive client advisory highlighting many of the major tax reform changes, including the numerous changes to how beer, wine and distilled spirits are taxed. These particular changes related to the beverage industry are only effective for the 2018 and 2019 tax years. (more…)

America’s Craft Beer Community Springs into Nashville

This spring, the craft brewing community will take over America’s Music City for the Craft Brewers Conference and BrewExpo America®, presented by the Brewers Association, from April 30 to May 3. Joining them at this year’s conference is Verrill Dana’s own Jonathan Dunitz who will co-present, “From 1 Barrel to 1,000: Managing Risk from Start-Up to Rapid Growth,” with GHM Insurance Agency’s James Sanborn, Macpage’s Brad Weller, and Maine Beer Company’s Daniel Kleban.

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It’s Only “Natural:” Avoiding the Risk of Consumer Lawsuits Over Food Labels

Americans are increasingly sensitive to the ingredients that go into the food that we eat. Recently, Congress passed a law requiring manufacturers to label or place QR codes on products containing or made from genetically modified organisms (“GMOs”). Now, consumer advocates have turned their attention to food products bearing the word “natural,” raising legal risks for all food manufacturers who label products with that term.

Unlike many terms pertaining to food, such as “light/lite,” “low calorie,” “fat free,” and “reduced sodium,” the Food and Drug Administration (the “FDA”) does not officially define the term “natural.” Instead, the FDA has a longstanding, but nonbinding policy regarding the use of “natural” in human food labeling. Specifically, the FDA considers “natural” to mean “that nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food.” (more…)

A Guy Walks Into a Bar…

In an article for Craft Brewing Business, Lawyers on Tap attorney Jonathan Dunitz discusses how an improperly cleaned tap line can lead to not only serious lifelong health problems for the beer drinker, but also a significant verdict against the establishment who served the beer and its vendor. The $750,000 verdict outlined in the article should be an eye opener for any establishment with tap lines, whether the cleaning is done in-house or contracted to an outside vendor. A proactive risk management plan is a great way to keep your customers and employees safe, at a cost far less expensive than the cost of defending a case and paying a settlement of jury verdict. From flushing the lines with water to testing the tap with a pH strip, be sure to develop thorough protocols and checklists. Equally as important are getting vendors on the same page and ensuring you have adequate insurance to cover a loss if it does occur. (more…)

Arctic Opportunities: Exploring New Passages for Business Growth in the Arctic & North Atlantic

Changes in the shipping routes have placed Maine businesses on the doorstep of the Arctic and Northern Europe. Thanks to the addition of Eimskip, it now costs less to ship a container to Norway than it does to truck it to Maryland. On Thursday, October 19, 2017 from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM, Verrill Dana’s North Atlantic & Artic Group will host a full day seminar exploring how businesses can take advantage of these opportunities. (more…)

Lawyers on Tap: Risk Management Podcast Series

In a special three-part miniseries for the Verrill Voices podcast, attorney Jonathan Dunitz discusses risk management for breweries and brewpubs with a successful brewery owner, a leading insurance agent in the craft beverage industry, and an experienced corporate attorney. The podcast series takes owners of new and growing breweries through various considerations focused on limiting their risk exposure. In the first episode, Jonathan and Rising Tide Brewing Company founder Heather Sanborn discuss how policies, checklists and best practices should be implemented to reduce exposure to risk that could threaten the brewery. In the second episode, Jonathan and James Sanborn, insurance agent and manager of GHM Insurance’s Craft Beverage Program, discuss insurance, and the unique coverage needs of brewery owners to mitigate the specific kinds of risk impacting them and their business. The final episode, featuring Jonathan and fellow Verrill Dana attorney Mark Googins, focuses on the ways in which contracts may shift risk among parties doing business together. (more…)