Teamsters: Keep MillerCoors Brewery Open!

Interesting intersection between the worlds of beer and labor law as Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa sent a letter to executives at SABMiller, Molson Coors and MillerCoors, urging them not to close the MillerCoors brewery in Eden, North Carolina.

You can read the letter here, however, Hoffa essentially called MillerCoors out on its economic justifications for closing the brewery and claimed that the real reasons for doing so were to cut capacity and raise prices in the U.S. and “to avoid regulatory scrutiny during the federal government’s antitrust review of the Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI) and SABMiller (SAB) merger, and the related sale of SAB’s stake in the MillerCoors joint venture to Molson Coors.”

No response from the brewers to Hoffa’s letter as of yet. And no truth to the rumor that this post was an excuse to spend 8:51 of my life watching this on YouTube.

Selecting Your Company’s Name

Like anyone who has ever been a child1, I always wanted to have a cool nickname. Unfortunately, according to the unwritten rules of coolness, you can never give yourself a nickname. Luckily those interested in starting an alcoholic beverage business of your own, one of the key steps in starting a brewery, distillery, or winery is coming up with a name for your business.

The right name can bring in customers, set yourself off from your competition, and generally bring happiness and success to you and your business. Choosing the wrong name can spell disaster. Your name needs to be original, which sounds simple enough, but with over 4,000 breweries, 800 distilleries, and over 8,000 wineries in the United States at the end of 2015, with more joining every day, originality is harder than it seems. (more…)

You + TTB 2015-1= Happiness! New Ruling from TTB Lessens Burden of Seeking Formula Approval

Good news! The TTB has expanded the universe of ingredients added to malt beverages that no longer require a brewer to file a Formula Approval before obtaining a COLA. As anyone who has tried to add some creative ingredients (or, in reality, pretty much anything that wasn’t hops) to a malt beverage during the past decade will know, getting that product to market required going through the TTB’s burdensome Formula Approval requirement. The Formula Approval requirement added significant time to the overall label approval process. Furthermore, failure of a brewer to obtain a Formula Approval prior to filing for a COLA was the most common reason for rejecting a brewer’s COLA application. As brewers began to experiment more with the world of ingredients that can make great beer, the issue came to a head. (more…)

More Recognition for Maine’s Breweries

The Bangor Daily News reports that Maine’s largest city, Portland, has just been recognized by the SmartAsset website as the top city in the United States for beer drinkers.  http://hashtagmaine.bangordailynews.com/2015/12/28/reddit/portland-ranks-as-the-best-city-in-the-country-for-beer-drinkers-according-to-this-website/

And congratulations to the honorees of the “Maine’s Favorite Beers Poll”conducted by Beer This Week (TM symbol)
http://www.beerthisweek.com/maines-top-25-beers-2015/

And all this is happening in and around the hometown of one Neal Dow, who must be rolling in his grave.  Neal Dow was the Portland Mayor who in 1851 authored the Maine Law “An act for the suppression of drinking-houses and tippling shops” which served as the model for Prohibition statutes across the United States.

Livers Quake in Anticipation of Maine Liquor Price Changes

Listen up booze enthusiasts1: Maine is adjusting how it determines its cut of liquor sales, which will result in price changes on February 1 for a number of products.

A story by Darren Fishell of the Bangor Daily News contains the lowdown, along with some pretty cool charts. A couple of interesting takeaways:

  • The price of Allen’s Coffee Brandy, perennially Maine’s most popular liquor won’t change – except for the 375-milliliter size, which will increase by $.50;
  • The largest percentage decrease in price will come for Five O’clock Vodka’s 375-milliliter bottle. The shelf price for this item (unofficial motto: “The Vodka to Have When You’re Having More Than Four”) will drop 25% (from $6 to $4.49); and
  • The new pricing system sets a standard markup for spirits across a certain category and is designed to ensure predictability and a better deal for Mainers. Additionally, it’s designed to help the State compete with our hated neighbors in New Hampshire, whose lack of a sales tax allows them to play Lucy to Maine’s Charlie Brown and draws an estimated $30 million to $40 million away from Maine in revenue each year.

Check out the article for more detail on the changes.

1 Boozethusiasts (?) Did I just invent a word?

Deceptive Marketing Lawsuits Against Alcoholic Beverage Industry on the Rise

The number of lawsuits against alcoholic beverage manufacturers for alleged deceptive marketing grew again this past December, with both Guinness and Foster’s Beer facing new lawsuits in federal court. In Massachusetts, a consumer filed suit against Guinness alleging that the company improperly advertised that “all Extra Stout sold in North America is brewed in Ireland at historic St. James’ Gate Brewery in Dublin.”

In New York, a consumer filed a suit alleging that Foster’s marketing implied that the beer was brewed in Australia, based on its advertisements that featured actors with Australian accents and its slogans “Foster’s, Australian for Beer” and “How to Speak Australian.” Foster’s moved its brewing operations to Fort Worth, Texas in 2011, and a “misled” consumer is seeking compensation from Foster’s. (more…)

‘Tis the Season for Internship Nightmares

With college exams finalized we hear from many companies that bring on college interns for a few weeks in late December and early January. It provides clients with help to catch up on things that slipped through the cracks during the course of the year and provides the intern with a really sweet line on their resume—I mean who wouldn’t want to work in a brewery/distillery/or winery?

Insofar as the company is a small establishment, or simply operating with limited funds, the thought of an unpaid internship may be appealing—this blog post (unfortunately) is likely going to squash that unpaid intern dream for you. Over the last few years we have been seeing more and more lawsuits across the country from interns in coveted positions who are claiming that state and federal wage and hour laws have been violated, either for failure to pay the minimum wage and overtime, or failure to pay at all. (more…)

Potential Loans for Craft Beverage Producers to Upgrade Energy Efficiency or Install Renewable Energy Technology

In December of 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Rural Development announced that it was now accepting applications for its Rural Energy for America Program, a program to provide loans and grants to agricultural producers and small rural business for energy efficiency improvements or new renewable energy systems.

To qualify you must be an agricultural producer with at least 50% of gross income coming from agricultural operations or a small business in a qualified non-urban area. To see more detailed qualification requirements, review the program fact sheet here. (more…)

AB InBev-SABMiller Merger

By now, just about everyone has heard the news that AB InBev, the world’s largest beer producer, owner of Anheuser-Busch and many other brands, plans to acquire SABMiller, the second largest beer producer. The reception among those in the craft beer industry to this news has been chilly to say the least. In the United States, there is significant concern that any such merger will have anticompetitive effects, particularly focusing on the potential squeezing out of craft brewers on both supply of raw ingredients and the distribution of final products. The merger will undergo significant review by the United States Department of Justice to determine whether it violates U.S. Antitrust law. (more…)

Choosing the Right Corporate Structure

Welcome to Lawyers on Tap, a blog dedicated to keeping you up to date with the legal issues facing the craft beverage industry. As this is the first blog post, let me open by saying, hello from Verrill Dana. Our firm has been assisting those in the craft beverage industry for several decades. Over that time we have developed considerable experience dealing with the particular challenges facing the industry. In this blog we will hope to provide you with information on trends, issues, and interesting news related to the legal side of operating in this complex sector. Given that this is our first post here on the blog, it seems fitting to cover the first issue that faces every brewery, distillery, or winery, choosing a business structure. (more…)