Category: Uncategorized

Cause Marketing For Craft Brewers (You Can Do Good, But Don’t Let Your Promotion Go Bad)

“Buy our beer and we’ll donate $1 to charity.” The ultimate “doing well by doing good.” Many large beer brands see the marketing advantage of asking consumers to buy their product in return for the brand’s donation to charity. For example, since 2011, Corona has donated a portion of the purchase price to the Jimmy V Foundation to help raise money for cancer research and in six years Miller Beer has raised $175,000 through its Tap Into Change program by donating a portion of sales to organizations focusing on LGBTQ issues.

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Take That Down: Recent Lawsuit on Negative Reviews

“Beer: The cause and solution to all of life’s problems.”

Mr. Homer J. Simpson would love the recent case of a Massachusetts craft beer company that has been trying in federal court to get the employment website Glassdoor to turn the taps off and take down negative reviews about the company.  Craft Beer Stellar filed an amended complaint in the District of Massachusetts, which is now subject to a motion to dismiss filed on May 11.  The claims, defenses and legal issues raised are exactly what you would expect in a fight over negative online reviews.

For a refresher, we have previously addressed the issue of negative online reviews here and here.

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A Guy Unexpectedly Walks into a TSA Bag Inspection: Don’t Let TSA Snag your Swag and Other Promotions Gone Awry

With the increasing popularity of beer tourism and the statistics on brand loyalty (or lack thereof) among craft beer lovers, breweries may be looking for ways to promote their brand and keep their brewery’s name on the lips of consumers.  Some have started loyalty programs, while others find alternate fun and distinctive ways to promote their brand.  We continue to be amazed by and applaud the craft brew community’s innovative approach to growth and marketing.  We encourage you to keep the craft beer community unique, creative and fun.  But, sometimes promotions go wrong in unexpected ways that at best are embarrassing, and at worst run afoul of the law.

So let’s start with a recent mistake that led to the risk management guy (your author) getting stopped by TSA on his way home from speaking on that very topic at a national conference.  I assume that most of this conference’s attendees flew there.  I would also guess that many who flew opted not to check a bag.   Those two simple facts were overlooked by at least one conference exhibitor whose good intentions in handing out carabiner key chains and pens went awry.  (more…)

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(PODCAST) Tap Tips for Entity Formation and Taxation

In this episode of Verrill Voices: Lawyers on Tap, Verrill Dana attorneys Jennifer Green and Jonathan Dunitz discuss the importance of entity formation to the overall success of a brewery business, and the differences between forming an entity using widely available online resources versus doing so with the assistance of an experienced attorney. Drawing on her experience as a seasoned tax attorney, Jen provides invaluable information about the tax implications of various entity formation choices. (more…)

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Lawyers on Tap in Nashville

Next week, on April 30, thousands from the craft brewing community will take over America’s Music City for the Craft Brewers Conference and BrewExpo America, presented by the Brewers Association. Joining them at this year’s conference are Verrill Dana Lawyers on Tap, Tawny Alvarez and Jonathan Dunitz. Jonathan will co-present, “From 1 Barrel to 1,000: Managing Risk from Start-Up to Rapid Growth,” with fellow panelists James Sanborn, of GHM Insurance Agency; Brad Weller, of Macpage; and Daniel Kleban, of Maine Beer Company. The panel discussion will focus on the risk that brewers need to be attuned to throughout their brewery’s growth – whether it’s a new lease for a larger facility, a bad batch of beer, contracts with glass manufacturers and canning contractors, or an accident in a tasting room. They will cover how to best protect your brewery from business and economic risks, including the roles of insurance coverage and bookkeeping. (more…)

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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…)

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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…)

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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…)

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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…)

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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…)

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