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TTB Formula Ruling is Big Win for Craft Brewers

After years of persistent petitioning from the Brewers Association, TTB has made big revisions to the formula and labeling requirements for beer. Prior to the ruling made on June 5th, 2014, in many cases craft brewers were required to submit a formula for approval as well as obtain a COLA before they were able to get their beer to consumers. This lengthy process substantially increased time to market.

In May 2006, the Brewers Association proposed changes to what TTB recognized as traditional ingredients such as certain fruits, spices, and processes including aging beer in barrels that were used in the production or storage of wine and spirits. These proposed ingredients and processes would no longer require the extra step of acquiring a formula approval from TTB and would be labeled according to trade understanding. Since the initial petition in 2006, TTB has seen a substantial rise in formula approval requests from a new age of brewers that have revived traditional, historical brewing practices which include a variety of innovative ingredients and processes. Because of the recent steep rise in requests, TTB undertook additional research to find out if these now commonly used ingredients would cause compliance issues further down the road. These studies produced conclusive results that the requested ingredients and processes would not cause compliance issues because they were so widely utilized.

This new ruling is a huge lift for many breweries, since it eliminates the tedious and time-consuming process of acquiring formula approvals. TTB has conveyed that this ruling is a means to “provide immediate relief from the formula requirement burden for certain products.” It is also the beginning of a reassessment of how the TTB can “reduce regulatory burdens” and be most effective in working together with brewers to get quality beer to consumers.

Brewers are already experiencing the positive effects of this ruling. When we reached out to Heather Gleeson from New Belgium Brewing Company, she said that previously, it would take around 75 days for all formula approvals from TTB. “Eliminating the need for formulas with ingredients that you can pick up at the local grocery store which are generally recognized as safe and common is super exciting.” Heather is also very pleased to see that formulas are no longer required for the utilization of wood barrels that previously contained wine or spirits since New Belgium Brewing Company makes so many different sour ales that are aged in wood barrels. She has already seen a drop in approval time from 75 to 65 days for formulas that actually do require approval. “Getting beer to market much faster is huge. It is also less of an administrative burden for TTB that just makes a lot of sense.” Everyone is looking forward to faster approval times for formulas, and already enjoying being able to withdraw formula applications that are no longer required.

*Even since June 10th we’ve seen a drop in formula approval times from 72 days to 63 days.

While certain ingredients and processes are now exempt from formula approval, TTB may request further information about ingredient and production on a case-by-case basis. TTB also requires that brewers label their beer accurately so that ingredients and brewing processes are not misleading. For more details about what has changed, see TTB Ruling 2014-4 and its attachments for a complete list of exempt ingredients and acceptable labeling. For even more positive feedback on this ruling, check out the Brewer’s Association’s response.

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