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The Beer Act Takes Off

Patty Murray has voiced her support for the BEER Act.

***This post was originally published on the Brewery Law Blog, an alcoholic beverage law blog administered by Reiser Legal LLC. The office’s Doug Reiser provides Beer Blotter with regular legal and legislative commentary.***

Last week, I discussed the federal BEER Act. Today, it looks a bit more promising for the tax cut legislation that would put millions back in brewery pockets.

A fairly wide-spreading marketing effort took over this past week. You can now see an out-pouring of support from Senators across all parts of the U.S. With each passing day, it appears more likely that this bi-partisan effort will pass through the Senate.

As of today, both Sen. Maria Cantwell and Sen. Patty Murray have stepped up to provide assurance that they will back the BEER Act.  In total, The Wall Street Journal counts 17 senators as co-sponsors. But, reports last week showed that there are closer to thirty that have expressed support for the bill.

If you want to learn more about the BEER Act, read our earlier post. In that post, you can find summary information, as well as links to the language, courtesy of the Brewers Association. The Act itself is incredibly brief.

We will continue to track progress of the bill, here at Brewery Law Blog.

Beer Law: Farmer’s Market to Sample Beer?

January 12, 2011 1 comment

Beer: Coming soon to a Farmer's Market by you!

**This post originally published by BrewerlyLaw.com, beer law blog published by Seattle based Reiser Legal LLC.**

Booze at farmer’s markets? Yep.

A new legislative action by Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles would bring beer and wine sampling to Seattle’s wondrous farmer’s markets. The bill is being introduced in the State Senate as SB 5029 and can be reviewed by following this link.

Apparently, this legislation is modeled after a recent law that permits the sampling of beer and wine at grocery stores. But, this first step is a simply a “test kit”, targeting 10 sample markets and limiting sampling to one brewer or winemaker per market, per day.

We will be sure to follow the legislation through the voting process. But, I think that most will agree that its a great first step to bringing our great state’s most celebrated craftsman to the market – the brewer.

The Death of I-1100: What’s Next for Washington?

The law books will have to wait for a change. I-1100 has been defeated.


***This post was originally posted on BreweryLaw.com, a blog devoted to beer law! The blog is published by Reiser Legal, LLC, a Seattle, Washington law office. Reiser Legal’s Douglas Reiser is our regular legal blogger.***

 

Well, its over. Both of the private liquor initiatives have failed to win the hearts of Washington voters. Even though there are still some votes to count, the battle is over.

 

But why did voters not embrace this initiative?

 

This year the elections were charged by an eagerness to reduce taxes and eliminate the government stranglehold on business. Nationwide, voters made it clear that they felt that big government had failed.

 

With voters looking to reduce taxation and governmental control, you would think that an initiative to eliminate Washington’s monopoly over liquor sales would prevail, right? How about an initiative that, as both sides would argue, would reduce the costs of beer and wine sold in Washington state? Hole in one, eh?  Nay.

 

Washington voters listened to the issues and voted with their brains, and not their hearts. I firmly believe that Western Washington’s love for its communities, defeated these measures. They listened to the local businesses that they support and decided that I-1100 was not for them and their families. (Note: I-1105 was defeated roundly). The massive amount of money that was dumped into this initiative appears to have been put to good use, as public education significantly assisted the “No” campaign.

 

So, what’s next?

 

One thing is for sure, it was a close call. The I-1100 vote came down to the final votes. The dividing line is not too wide.

 

Secondly, many of the organizations that supported the “No” campaign, including the Washington Brewers Guild, are not against the concepts of liquor privatization and free markets. They simply do not want it to happen overnight.

 

The one sentiment that I believe most shared was that overnight deregulation could be disturbing for businesses in the industry. Most of these groups might have been willing to get behind a measure that built in gradual deregulation. Heather McClung, owner of Schooner Exact Brewing, stated that the Guild’s members favor “slow, steady growth in modernizing those laws.” So, its possible they would get behind some, better crafted, legislation.

 

Finally, this was a voter initiative and not a legislative measure. Public citizens drew up significant changes to Washington state law (called for the repeal of 26 state laws), and I believe that it frightened some people. If a more gradual measure was to pass through the legislature, it might have more footing.

 

In the end, I suspect that there will be a congressional push to get proposed legislation circulated in the legislature. In the next few years, the State of Washington will likely have some form of private liquor sales and a more deregulated alcohol business. I would take those betting odds.

 

Like Beer Law? Check Out These Blogs

September 29, 2010 Leave a comment

We drink, take notes and then we blog it. Law blogs are a bit different.

***This post was originally posted on BreweryLaw.com, a blog devoted to beer law! The blog is published by Reiser Legal, LLC, a Seattle, Washington law office. Reiser Legal’s Douglas Reiser is our regular legal blogger.***

I came across this wonderful blog by Tom Warks, today. Tom runs Fermentation: The Daily Wine Blog, a blog typically discussing the public relations within the wine world.

Tom regularly focuses on legal issues facing the wine industry and so he put together a list of some of the best alcoholic beverage law blogs out there. Included was a humble yours truly, amongst a wonderful crowd of legal minds.

Check out his list of legal blogs by following this link. There are an abundance of blogs for just about every taste in the alcoholic beverages law spectrum.

One blog of particular interest to myself, and likely most of you, is the Alcoholic Beverages Law Blog. This blog is written by the Portland office of well-respected law office, Stoel Rives LLP.

The blog is written by a collective of attorney out of the firms offices in Washington, Oregon and California. Seattle attorney, Susan Johnson, offers her own perspective from time to time, including this write up on the liquor Initiatives (1100 & 1105) currently on the ballot in Washington.

Thanks to Tom for including my blog in this list of elite commentators.

Beer Law: Campaign Ads Lend Fodder to Initiative 1100 Fire

September 28, 2010 3 comments

Store owner Wallace Wright appears in an online ad for Yes to 1100

You might be sick of Initiative 1100 by now (and please tell me below, if you are), but here is more fodder for the fire. Initiative 1100 is getting more and more face time, every time I turn on the tube.

The ad campaigns used by both sides showcase many in the local alcohol industry – some who are for it; others who are not. Here is a look at what is out there, so far.

 

No!

You probably have already seen the videos put out by the “No To Initiative 1100/1105” campaign. The two that are most often shown (and perhaps the only two out there) profile Washington winemaker, Darby English, and a Washington corner store owner.

Here is Darby English talking about why he believes the Initiative will harm his business:

 

Other ads showcase the safety hazards that many are pushing as the negative impact of the Initiative. This one is from a local firefighter:

 

Another video was put out by the Teamsters, who put 700-800 people to work in the alcohol distribution business. Take a look:

 

Yes!

 

But, where are the supporters videos? Until recently, it appeared that the “Yes to 1100” campaign wouldn’t put as much money into ads. But a recent video shows that maybe they were just saving all their guns for one ad. Check out this video of many of Seattle’s most prominent restaurateurs:

 

Many will say that this video is merely a collection of bar/restaurant owners, looking for cheaper liquor. But, the Yes to 1100 campaign has been out in the community getting video testimonials from many people in the alcohol industry. You can see some of these videos below.

Wallace Wright of the Meridian Market:

 

Jackie Moffit, local bartender and author of DrinkGal.com

 

Alison Helfen of the Wine Alley:

 

What I really wanted to show are the real people out there that will be impacted by the Initiative. Most of us are merely beverage consumers who care about the bottom line. Through these people’s stories, I think you can get a better idea of the impact of this legislation. Hopefully, it will help you make your choice next month.

 

Beer Law: Drinking Home Brew With Friends? Thank WAHA.

September 24, 2010 2 comments

Gov. Gregoire signs SB 5060 amongst a group of WAHA committee members.

If you are at home this evening, tasting a wonderfully hand-crafted ale provided to you by your neighbor – you can thank the Washington Homebrewers Association (WAHA). That’s right, shake their hand.

Washington state law (RCW 66.12.010) exempts home brewed beer from the restraints of licensing, as long as its used for personal consumption. Thus, home brewing is legal. But, Washington’s prior RCW 66.28.140 heavily restrained the use and consumption of that legally home brewed beer.

Without a license to produce and sell beer, your beer was only to be personally consumed. Furthermore, you could only transport a small amount of beer (1 gallon) for purposes of any home brewing competition. The worst part – only the judge could taste your beer!

But then came WAHA with a proposition: lets change the law. And so they did, pushing reasonable legislative language with the generous backing of Senator Ken Jacobsen.

In early 2009, language was proposed to change 66.28.140, under SB 5060. The proposed bill moved quickly through the Legislature and was signed into law in May 2009. The change went into effect on July 26, 2009.

The verdict is our new RCW 66.28.140 – a reasonable and fair home brew law. The new law allows us share home brew amongst friends, allow others to taste samples at events, and allow to wheel your keg over to the neighbors for Sunday’s big game.

Here are the technical permissions:

 

you can remove home brew….

 

(a) as long as the quantity removed does not exceed twenty gallons;

 

(b) as long as its not removed for sale; and

 

(c) as long as it for private use  (which includes use at organized affairs, exhibitions, or competitions)

 

So, take a moment today and thank WAHA for ridding Washington of an old and archaic law that restricted the right to share your home brew. Thanks to a wonderfully driven group of normal citizens, I am sitting here this evening enjoying a nice glass of my neighbor’s IPA.

Take a moment and check out WAHA’s webpage and please follow their Twitter account.

 

Beer Law & Legis: TTB and USDA Work Together to Review “Organic” in Labels and Advertising

Portland's Roots Brewing is one of many brewers who slap "Organic" on the label

***This post was originally posted on BreweryLaw.com, the nation’s first, and maybe the only, blog devoted to beer law! The blog is published by Reiser Legal, LLC, a Seattle, Washington law office. Reiser Legal’s Douglas Reiser is our regular legal columnist.***

The Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a new Memorandum of Understanding pertaining to the use of the term “Organic” on alcoholic beverage labels. Of course, this news is of utter importance to brewers, especially those in the NW who have focused on brewing organically.

We learned about this Memorandum on Davis Wright & Tremaine’s Hospitality Law Blog by attorney Kelly Luzania. According to Luzania, the TTB will continue to review all labels and advertising for alcoholic beverages, subject to a caveat. Any labels or advertising making claims that the product is “100% organic”, “organic” or “made with organic (ingredients)” must be reviewed with regard to USDA National Organic Program regulations.
From Kelly’s article:

COLAs for wine, beer and spirit labels that contain “organic” claims will now be approved by the TTB as “approved subject to compliance with the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 and the National Organic Program regulations[.]” If they do not comply with USDA organic laws, the labels will be rejected and the TTB will let applicants know what changes need to be made to make the label compliant. An applicant may only appeal this rejection with the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.

The Memorandum provides an interesting look at two of the alcoholic beverage industry’s regulatory bodies working together to reduce confusion and maintain consistency in COLA reviews.

A copy of the Memorandum is available on the TTB website and can be accessed by clicking here.

Beer Law & Legis: BevLog’s Website is Helpful Resource for Brewers

Lehrman's BevLog presents interesting beer labels approved by the TTB

I stumbled across a wonderful website that is both informative and incredibly entertaining/intriguing that I thought we would share with the rest of you.

I have been searching for a viable and intriguing beer law blog for some time now. There just is nothing out there. In fact, if you were to google “beer law blog,” this column at BeerBlotter.com comes up on the first page. Wow.

One great site that does appear is BevLog, a blog put together by Lehrman Beverage Law, a firm headed by nationally known beverage lawyer, Robert C. Lehrman. Robert practices out in Virginia but certainly has an audience nationwide. Recently, he moderated a large panel NABCA (National Alcoholic Beverage Control Association) panel entitled “TTB and FDA: Working Side by Side to Regulate Alcohol Beverages.” He knows his stuff, and is constantly at the forefront of beverage law in the US.

Robert and attorney John Messinger edit BevLog. The blog’s main focus seems to be in the area of labeling and marketing regulations. As you probably know as a reader, or as you definitely know as a brewer, the US regulates labeling and marketing materials through the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the Alcohol & Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).

These two organizations work together (sometimes not nicely) to take brewer’s money and tell them whether or not their labeling and marketing materials are do not mislead consumers and are not obscene. Of course, they also regulate permitting, sales, transit, and content (FDA) of your beer.

But BevLog is an intriguing blog because the sole focus is to provide you with a glimpse of the most recent eye-catching labels that were approved by the TTB.

From the site:

TTB approves well over 100,000 labels per year. In these approvals you can see the bursting efflorescence of the American (and the world) economy….

bevlog reviews almost all of the 100,000+ beer, wine and spirits labels approved by TTB each year. We try to bring you the most noteworthy.

Check out the site. Recently they reviewed Lagunita’s new label for Wilco Tango Foxtrot, discussing the miltary implications implicit in the label.

If you have any great labels to throw their way, the site is set up to facilitate a dialogue.

In other news, our legal writer at BeerBlotter.com will be editing a new legal blog on beer law in Washington state over at http://www.brewcounsel.com. The site should be launched sometime in the next month. Beer Law & Legis will continue, but will be streamed from BrewCounsel.com.

Beer Law & Legis: New Washington Ad Regulations Hit the Beer Industry

Could murals like this one in Georgetown be hitting the skids? Probably not, but new regulations are on their way.

Hallelujah! Thank you sir. Our friends over at Washington Beer Blog spurred a mighty fine conversation about recent changes to the Washington State regulations over outdoor alcohol advertising. Just in time for Beer Law & Legis.

The Blog authors cite Washington Administrative Code 314-52-070 as being amended to restrict the number, size and location of beer signs in bars, restaurants and outdoor beer events. Here are the bolded points:

  • A bar can only have 4 visible signs listing the names of beer, manufacturers, or brand names. This restriction is to signs visible from the public right of way (anywhere on the street)
  • Size limits on signs are imposed. Signs can only be  1600 square inches in size (roughly 3.5 ft x 3.5 ft).
  • No outdoor advertising within 500 feet of places of worship, schools, public playgrounds, or athletic fields (more than a football field and a half).
  • Exception for “tourist oriented designation signs” under RCW 47.36.320. Also, local governments can provide an exception to their licensees through local ordinance.

At first glance I thought that this is a much broader statute than is being let on. This does not simply apply to bars and taverns, but to distributors, gas stations, groceries, billboards, and banners.

WAC 314-52-070 regulates “outdoor advertising.” Here is the definition for “outdoor advertising” :

(1) “Outdoor advertising” by manufacturers, importers, distributors, and retail licensees for these purposes shall include all signs visible to the general public, whether permanent or temporary, advertising the sale and service of liquor (excluding point-of-sale brand signs, which are defined and governed as otherwise provided in WAC 314-52-113) as well as trade name and room name signs.

Essentially, this is every beer sign taking up space in Washington state, which is visible to the public (thankfully my phenomenal coaster collection in the kitchen is not regulated). But, be noticed that massive Henry Weinhard signs in the Belltown area or Bud Light Cruise Signs in SODO are coming down. These are not excluded under RCW 47.36.320, which targets directional and scenic signs, such as highway road stops.

Now, the old law already regulated signage within a “proximity” to the schools, churches and play fields. But the law was extremely broad, vague and allowed too much discretion. Thus, I will agree that it needed a change.

A change should be sensical. I have never been a huge fan of the 500 foot rule. This is the distance used to regulate gun sales. 500 feet is a long way. Thats over 1.5 football fields, and you would be surprised to see how many public establishments are within the 500 foot line from bars and alcohol sellers.

Something shorter than a city block is fair – which is somewhere around 300 feet. But 500 feet just gives people the chance to throw darts at establishments around the corner and down the road from public parks (which are everywhere). If there is not a danger that is clearly related to the signage prevalence, do not over regulate it. Kids are exposed to alcohol advertising everywhere they go. It is hard for us to believe that they a clearly identified and scientifically proven problem is related.

The other issues – number and size. We actually agree with the number. There are four sides to a building in 99% of the cases (good job Triangle Pub on your originality). So, the number permits you to get a sign on each side, or hedge your bets and focus on one facade.

Either way, 4 signs gives you a change to get your big 3 up (A-B, Miller, and Coors) and one micro. In this world, you should be happy that they picked anything above three. Lets just hope that Heineken doesn’t pop up and spoil the numbers. What I would hope for is some more creative advertising from MillerCoors and A-B, where they max out the 1600 square inches and join multiple labels/brands into one sign. Certainly an option and both good and bad. On one hand, its more crappy beer in your face, but its also more chances for open spots.

In the end, your favorite bars will know what to choose. Remember, we live a place where distributors fear the bars – not the other way around. A-B and MillerCoors do not take over most bars here. Look at your local taps – PBR is your midwest water beer of choice.

The size is the least of the issues. In fact, its might be for the better. Gigantic beer murals have taken over spaces in SODO, Belltown and Downtown. It has started to become a joke, a reality show advertisement. Small brewers and their distributors cannot afford to construct massive signs, or pay for the space to fit them. This regulation benefits our friends in the craft brewing world. Praise this change.

Luckily, no regulations will apply to the artistic beer murals down in Georgetown. The PBR murals have a wonderful legacy and are part of a great event, but they certainly do not meet the definition under WAC 314-52-070.

We are very open to discussion here at BeerBlotter.com. Please feel free to comment below. We want to tank Washington Beer Blog for their curiosity!

Beer Law & Legis: Labeling Laws a Joke?

February 18, 2010 4 comments

BrewDog's Tokyo left regulators in a crazed frenzy!

Beer labeling, we seldom think about it. We grab a beer, read the label for ingredients and down the hatch. Why else is there a label, but to tell consumers what your wondrous tonic is comprised of? You mean there is a marketing element?

Well of course there is a marketing element; there is a reason your beer label includes flashy vocabulary and catchy imagery. The brewer is selling beer –  a product (we know its more than that, but for the sake of argument…)

There is a whole mess of regulation that prohibits your favorite brew from donning a more sexy label. Beer labeling laws restrict brewers from utilizing images and names that might raise more interest in their grog. This has to be the reason that you do not see gory, sexual, or off the cuff labeling – someone is saying no.

There is a lot of information on the web about beer labeling regulation. A great starter article by Andy Pasquesi, illustrates the laundry list of “no-nos” in the beer labeling world. A sample of the bad and ugly:

On the container or other packaging (for example, the cardboard box surrounding a case of beer cans or the cardboard holder for a six-pack of beer bottles), you are aren’t allowed to:
• Make false statements.
• Say anything bad about a competitor’s product.
• Put obscene or tasteless writing, images or device (for example, pop-ups or microphones).
• Mislead consumers with manipulated information from tests, standards or other analytical data.
• Use a name that suggests your product is endorsed or supervised by a person or organization when it isn’t. The exception to this is if you’ve sold the product under that name for five years or more without incident.
• Make misleading guarantees. You can offer money-back guarantees.
• Use a name that suggests your product is made from distilled spirits. However, existing distilled spirits brands can co-brand themselves with beers, as long as it’s clear from the label that “Johnny Walker Summer Ale” is a malt beverage and not a distilled spirit. This goes for cocktails as well. (You can sell a mudslide-flavored beer, but it must be clear that there is no vodka in the beverage.)
• Use a design or image that simulates a government stamp, meaning no presidential seals, armed services insignias, fire or police emblems, currency graphics or state flags.
• Claim or imply the health benefits of your product.
• Direct consumers to a third-party for information about the health benefits of your product or ingredients therein.

Yuck. You mean to tell us that we need to figure what is “obscene and tasteless” before we print 1000 bottle labels? Statutory ambiguity in the regulations leads to too much discretion for Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) officials, the body entrusted with the power to shut down product packaging and labeling.

You can read more about the TTB powers, rights and regulations on their website’s “labeling” page. For all you nerds out there, the beer labeling laws are located at 27 CFR Part 7, Labeling and Advertising of Malt Beverages and 27 CFR Part 16, Alcoholic Beverage Health Warning Statement. Exhilarating reading.

So who is the rouge challenger of beer labeling? I think that no one goes above and beyond the call of duty to fight restriction better than Scotland’s BrewDog. BrewDog has again and again toyed with regulators and private organizations formed to restrict alcohol marketing devices.

The Portman Group is one such private organization. Here is their mission statement:

“Just as people should show personal responsibility when drinking alcohol, companies must demonstrate responsibility in the way that they conduct their business.

We work with drinks producers to raise standards of alcohol marketing.  We challenge companies to be socially responsible and inspire them to achieve best practice.”

Well then, what say you Portman Group about BrewDog’s recent super heavy alcohol releases? They didn’t like it. Shocker.

BrewDog’s release of the 18.2% brew Tokyo, included labeling which implies that life sometimes needs excess – this beer is for those times. Apparently that struck a cord with Portman, who released the following statement:

Portman Group Chief Executive David Poley said: “We don’t regulate the alcohol content of drinks but we do control how they are promoted. It’s obviously unwise for any company to urge consumers to drink to excess.

“We won’t allow any irresponsible marketing whether it’s for a big brand or a niche product. That’s why we’re taking action to restrict future sales of this beer.”

BrewDog’s response……target major producers who push 24 packs of Keystone Light, Natural Light and plethora of “light” products, the sole intention of which is to drink in heavy quantity in party atmospheres.

“They should perhaps concentrate their efforts on targeting the brands selling 24 cans of lager for £7 – where literal excess is contributing to Scotland’s problem with alcohol.”

So, the battle comes down to whether a restriction unfairly restricts craft brewers who brew at a high level of alcohol, but less volume, versus those massive producers who keep the ABV low, but package in massive volume. Remember 24 cans of 12 oz is 288 oz. The price of a BrewDog Tokyo’s 22 oz bottle is roughly 18.00, whereas a case of Keystone Light is roughly 16.00. Hint: there is much more alcohol in that case of Keystone.

You can take many different angles on this argument, but the result should be that beer is a changing industry that requires a new approach to regulation. No longer is the beer market wholly comprised of sub-5% malt beverages. The craft industry has made beer climb towards the ranks of spirits. Beer is no longer only consumed in heavy quantities, but can also be enjoyed one bottle at a time, over a lengthy period of time.

Luckily for you beer aficionados who do not see a problem with beer marketing, there is BrewDog. BrewDog seemingly fears no backlash, poking fun at regulators by producing, back to back, Nanny State (a 1.1% beer) and Tactical Nuclear Penguin (at the time the highest ABV on the planet at 32%). Take that regulators.

Even more recently, BrewDog spawned a battle of the heavy beer with German brewer Schorschbraeu, who did back to back releases of a 32% brew and a 40% brew named “Schorschbock.”

Not to be outdone, BrewDog immediately released “Sink the Bismarck,” a brew weighing in at 41%.

Now, we love beer, but has this battle brought out the worst in beer? Is it still about the complexity, flavor and ingredients – or merely the alcohol?

Schorschbraeu Managing Director and brew master Georg Tscheuschner told the media, after BrewDog’s recent release:

“We’ll just brew another, stronger one,” he said. “Forty-five percent shouldn’t be a problem and we have beer enthusiasts waiting for it.”

We just hope they stay on the shelf. Bad or good, the beer is these brewer’s income. Regulators who may aim to shut it down, could easily hit these brewers right in the pocket.

Is it time for a new discussion of beer labeling laws? We think so. How about you? Leave comments below.



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