Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Our View on the Label Approval Process

Our case is a unique one in that we are not a restaurant, nor do we distribute. Period. BadWolf does not even bottle beer to sell inside our store (at least for now). Our growlers are not pre-filled either which would reclassify them from the "large glass" category to the "bottles" category which has a special label like you see on the growlers at Sweetwater Tavern. We only sell pints and fill growlers on the spot. As far as we know, I think we are the only brewery in the state in this scenario, at least for now... I know that this will change and more breweries will come down the pike with many different business models and some may be like ours. Hey, that's totally cool, no problem the more the merrier! There are so many breweries in the planning stages... watch out because Virginia and the DC metro area is about to become the next best craft beer destination on the East Coast!

Getting straight to the point, the issue is with the label itself in that it only requires the following:

  • name of brewery
  • city
  • state
  • name of the beer
  • container size
The next question I asked Jeremy was, "why"? Isn't a label concerned about the nitty gritty details of what's in the keg? And I thought this was regulated by TTB? Well, it's not regulated by federal law when it comes to our kegs behind the counter, it's a state thing. So then I ask, "Why are we putting labels on our 5 gallon kegs to be stored behind a counter that a consumer is not viewing and the kegs are not being distributed?"

Virginia code, as stated in my previous blog, explains that beer manufactured in the state must be labeled. This is understandable however, I believe this code was most likely written at a time when large breweries made beer mostly for distribution or to move their beer from one location to another. For some time, Virginia had only a few large national breweries.

Why label these little kegs hanging out behind the counter if they are not leaving the premises? I don't label my growlers leaving the premises...? However, we do have to pay for each keg label. Though the payment is only $30, BadWolf brews 5 new beers a week. How could we get creative if we are stifled by limiting our beer selection and did I mention that it takes up to 30 days to approve a label?  I have no problem paying for a label for our future bottles and distributed kegs by the way. That is completely understandable from all perspectives.

By the way, the label issue came up while we were submitting our VA beer taxes as they required a label approval number which we did not have because when we heard "labels" we assumed it meant distribution or for bottling. As far as we knew, this whole subject was N/A. When Jeremy looked over the tax form, it was truly setup for just a few labels, not anything like our request.

Our proposed solution #1: exemption from ABC label approval for draught beer served on the premises of the manufacture that will not be distributed.

My second proposal, label the keg but forget paying the $30 a pop. Third solution (if the law doesn't change in my lifetime) make less varieties of beers which would stifle recipe creativity and anyone else following suit. And no it wouldn't result in a free for all because beer is beer. It cannot be made any other way. Current Scenario - how about we make many varieties of beers and pay 5 x $30 every week with a 30 day waiting period? That's what we just submitted to ABC - $300 for our varieties of beers - probably more than most large breweries have submitted in a year. I hope that covers our beer recipes for the next few weeks! In the meantime, we await approval while our BadWolf operation is temporarily shut down so we avoid being fined or charged. Nah, scratch all that, I vote for Solution #1.

Seriously, as silly as I sound, I urge all the key people to help us fine tune the ABC label approval process to make sure it is conducive to the spirit of SB 604 and to our newly budding breweries and all of the great local craft beer about to come down the pike. Please tell your local delegates and state senate and anyone else involved with VA law to make an exemption for kegs sitting behind the counter of the beer manufacturer (that is the kegs not being distributed). We don't do it for growlers, why is it necessary for kegs?

With all due respect, what I say in the blog is meant to be completely open and honest with anyone who reads it. I do not want to hold back nor walk on egg shells and all that political stuff. I just want to express a legitimate concern and begin the journey to make some changes for a growing craft beer wave. I just don't know where to start except to voice a concern. Anyone good at drafting a new law? Maybe DC will someday be the next beer city USA!

Any questions or concerns, please go to and click "contact us" or feel free to comment below. Thank you!!

1 comment:

  1. Since the label only lists the name of the beer and it doesn't matter what is actually inside the kegs. Just come up with 5-10 generic beer names (BadWolf Batch #1, #2, etc.) and fill them with whatever you want.

    This way you won't have to limit the variety. The law just wants you to label the kegs, so BW Batch #1 one week could be a Pale Ale and then when that runs out the #1 can then be a Porter, etc.

    Would that run afoul of the law?