“If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat.
If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.”
Events like the recent Cinci Beerfest may let us think that beer is all fun and games but there is a lot of work that goes into getting a beer to market. A lot of the talk about that work focuses on brewing. However, formula and label approval are a critical linchpin in the process. A linchpin that has become slightly unfastened and caused the delayed release of at least one local beer.
Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB)
The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (aka TTB) is a bureau of the U.S. treasury department. Its main responsibility is for, as the name implies, collecting taxes on alcohol and tobacco. Part of the TTB is the Advertising, Labeling, and Formulation Division (ALFD), which is the source of some recent problems. The ALFD’s mission, among other things, is to “ensures that formulas, labels, and advertisements for alcohol beverages are in compliance with Federal laws and regulations”
If any brewer wants to add special ingredients they have to submit the formula for approval. So when Blank Slate Brewing Company wanted to include mushrooms or Dogfish Head needs to add some random item for their latest ancient ale, they have to wait for approval. They state an average of 30 days but unfortunately for Blank Slate it took 40 business days to get the recipe for Shroominus approved. Resulting in us craft beer fans not getting to try it at beerfest and this hilarious “tap handle”
But I’ve got good news from Scott LaFollette, proprietor, janitor, and yeast farmer at Blank Slate, that Shroominous has been approved and kegs are headed to the distributor. Keep an eye out for it appearing at bars around town over the next few days/weeks. For most beers, there is no big problem here as the majority of all beers are just water, malt, hops, and yeast.
On top of all of this, brewers still need to get approval from the states as well. But with each state possibly varying significantly in their processes I’m not gonna get into that here, maybe I’ll take a look at a few another day.
All this being said we need to remember that the Tax and Trade Bureau is full of good people doing their job to the best, and fastest, of their abilities. It’s not their fault if the government continually cuts their funding instead of [insert your own political views here]. Plus the delay on Shroominous hit around the holidays and everyone deserves time off with family. I don’t want anyone to think poorly of the TTB, the story of Shroominous was just the initial reason for me digging into what the TTB is.