We get it. We’ve worked with many clients who were in the same situation while coming down to a deadline or working on their first beer label.
The process of having a label created and approved by the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Trade Bureau) can be a truly daunting one.
But don’t worry. You’re in the right place and we’re ready to help. Here’s a breakdown of the TTB’s mandatory regulations for beer labels. Read on, so that you may rest easy and get your craft beer out to market successfully.
(Note: This article is not legal advice and is intended only to be a guide for highlighting and explaining some important points in the TTB beer labeling regulations.)
A. Brand Names
The TTB dictates a brand name must use the name of the bottler, packer or importer if a traditional brand name has not been selected. If you’ve given our brand name article a looksy, you may have come up with an amazing brand name already.
One that is shiny and new and brimming with emotional resonance. Maybe it's playfully misspelled, or interestingly punctuated. If so, then nice work.
The next thing, then, to turn your attention to is the usability. Determining if the brand name of your beer is in keeping with TTB guidelines.
A brand name must not — because the TTB prefers negative language — contain the “age, name, origin, identity or characteristics of the malt beverage” unless that name is honest in its representation of the beer and doesn’t contain any misinformation.
So basically, do not defile the sacred label with your lies! If for some reason, you have to include something in your brand name that can be misconstrued, you must add the word “brand,” or a disclaimer to it.
For example, a problematic name would be one that references a specific location but does not explicitly state its true country of origin.
When it comes to the display of that brand name, the rules are as follows. The brand name must appear on the front of the container (because c’mon don’t be shy).
Additionally, the required font size will be dependent on the size of the container. Those containers larger than a ½ pint should have a font size that is no smaller than 2 millimeters. Those containers that are a ½ pint or less, cannot have a font size smaller than 1 millimeter.
The brand name must be easy to read. That means no sloppy text, images that obscure text, or backgrounds that text can easily blend into.
Now that we’ve handled the brand name, it’s time for the class and designation rules. Don’t know what those are? Well you will in a second.. Let’s gooooooo.
B. Class and Designation
In an attempt to keep this article about dense regulatory jargon light-hearted and entertaining, we initially had a joke here, but our editor made us delete it. It involved a beer bottle, an octopus, and a sailor. Use your imagination.
Anyhow, the next area in which the TTB has articulated strident rules is in that of class and designation. Put simply, class and type designation refer to the type of beer you’re selling.
Categories of class might include whiskey, brandy or liqueur, neutral spirits or alcohol. (Now, you’re probably thinking isn’t malt-beverage a type of alcoholic beverage? Well sometimes, but the category of malt beverage can include non-alcoholic beverages as well. Just a little fun fact.)
Items under the type designation umbrella might include vodka, distilled gin, bourbon whiskey or egg nog.
These, in terms of how they are displayed, must adhere to the same rules that were articulated above for the type size and legibility of the brand name.
Per the TTB, here is a list of malt beverage classes and brief descriptions:
C. Name and Address
The stipulations regarding name and address, as one might assume, are different for domestic beers and imported beers. For domestic malt beverages the “name and address of the producer/bottler or packer” should be displayed on your label.
You’ve got a bit of leeway when it comes to choosing how this is portrayed. You can choose between “BREWED AND BOTTLED/PACKED BY,” “BREWED BY” or “BOTTLED/PACKED BY.”
Fun, fun, fun, right? Keep in mind that the preface, “bottled by,” is reserved for “malt beverage containers of 1 gallon or less.” Whereas “packed by,” is saved for malt beverages packed in containers that exceed one gallon.
Okay, so, maybe it's not that much of a choice, but hey rules are fun too.
For imported malt beverages, it is required to articulate the name and whereabouts of the producer/bottler or packer. They must be displayed somewhere they can be easily found. The prefaces “IMPORTED BY,” “SOLE AGENT,” or “SOLE U.S. AGENT,” can be used at your discretion.
If there are multiple bottling and packing locations, then afford their addresses equal visibility. The location of the specific packing/bottling plant it came from can be distinguished via text, or specialized code.
If a code is chosen, the brewer must send a notice explaining the code to: Chief, National Revenue Center 8002 Federal Office Building 550 Main Street Cincinnati, Ohio 45202-3263.
Or you can communicate the city and state of the bottler’s/packer’s principal place of business. I know, paperwork sucks, but that’s bureaucracy for you!
When it comes to domestic beers, there is the option to leave out the bottling/packing address and, instead, include the location of the principal place of business. This, of course, can only be done if the principal place of business is where the bottling occurs.
Nevertheless, it is imperative that you include the address of the actual site where your bottles have been packed.
For imported brews, the principal place of business must appear on the label. Again, if you use a coding method for the purposes of denoting this information, you must file a notice with the Chief, National Revenue Center 8002 Federal Office Building 550 Main Street Cincinnati, Ohio 45202-3263.
In terms of displaying this information the aforementioned sizing and placement rules apply here.
You do, however, have the fun option of burning or branding this information onto the container.
D. Net Contents
Good news is “there are no standards of fill for malt beverages.” You are free to pour your brews into any sized container. *Twirls mustache, laughs maniacally*
The contents, however, should be expressed in American units of measure. If you want, though, you can add the metric measurements to the container next to those American figures.
Now, as usual, there are a few size delineations that need be acknowledged. If the contents in the container amount to less than a pint, they must be expressed as fluid ounces, or fractions of a pint. If the contents are 1 pint, 1 quart, or 1 gallon, they must be rendered as such.
If the net contents are between 1 pint and 1 quart, the contents must be displayed as pints, fluid ounces, or fractions of a quart. If the net contents exceed 1 quart, render the contents as quarts, pints, fluid ounces or fractions of a gallon. If the net contents are greater than a gallon, they must be represented as gallons or fractions. This information must be displayed on the front of the container.
E. Alcohol Content
A general statement about alcohol content is required in some states, and in others, it’s prohibited. You’ll have to check your state’s laws regarding the matter to be sure. Unless explicitly prohibited by your states’ law, your beer label should include a “Form of Statement.”
Here’s an example of how it should look:
“ALCOHOL (ALC) _____ % BY VOLUME (VOL)” or
“ _____% ALCOHOL (ALC) BY VOLUME (VOL)” or
“_____ % ALCOHOL (ALC)/VOLUME (VOL)”
Alcohol content should be represented in terms of its relation to the nearest 0.1%. An exception should be made in the event that the content of the malt beverage turns out to be lower than 0.5% alcohol by volume. In that scenario, the alcohol content should be represented by its relation to the nearest 0.01%. For more info on this, check out the TTB’s chart:
|The Term||MAY BE USED TO DESCRIBE A MALT BEVERAGE CONTAINING…|
|Low alcohol||less than 2.5% alcohol by volume|
|Reduced alcohol||less than 2.5% alcohol by volume|
|Non-alcoholic||less than 0.5% alcohol by volume NOTE: The statement “CONTAINS LESS THAN 0.5% ALC BY VOL” must appear with “NON-ALCOHOLIC” on the label|
|Alcohol free||no alcohol (0.0% alc by vol) NOTE: The alcohol content statement “0.0% ALC BY VOL” may not appear on the label unless the malt beverage is labeled “ALCOHOL FREE”|
For malt beverages with alcohol content equal or greater than 0.5%, the rules are a bit different.
It is okay for the actual alcohol content to be 0.3% higher or lower than stated by the label, but only under a few conditions. Malt beverages whose labels cite an alcohol content of 0.5% or more cannot contain less than 0.5%.
No malt beverage whose label describes it as having “LOW ALCOHOL” should possess an alcohol content greater or equal to 2.5%.
Any malt beverage with a label that describes it as “REDUCED ALCOHOL,” is barred *Ba dum tsss* from having an actual alcohol content greater than or equal to 2.5%. Those malt beverages with alcohol content less than 0.5%, cannot exceed the printed label amount.
The type size requirements, unless otherwise stated by your state government, are as follows.
The minimum requirement containing more than a ½ pint is 2 mm. The minimum requirement for a container with a ½ pint or smaller capacity is 1 mm. The maximum requirement for a container with a 40 fl. oz or less capacity is 3 mm. The maximum requirement for a container with a capacity greater than 40 fl oz is 4 mm. This marking can be placed on the front, back, or side of the container. Choices, choices, choices.
FD&C Yellow #5 Disclosure
A special disclosure must appear on the bottle if the container has any FD&C Yellow #5. If your bottle contains this ingredient, you’ll have to make sure that it says “CONTAINS FD&C YELLOW #5” on the label.
For type size consider this. The smallest font granted for a container with a capacity greater than a ½ pint is 2 mm. The smallest font allowed for a container with a capacity of a ½ pint or smaller is 1 mm. This bit of information must be legible. Also, don’t forget to place it somewhere it can be easily seen.
As you may have assumed this disclosure is also required. Lab tests have revealed Saccharin to be a cancer causing agent. So if you must include it, please note that leaving this off is a big no-no.
Another chemical that will definitely harsh your mellow is Sulfite. If you happen to have this in your beverage, then shame on you! Shame on you. Just kidding.
Seriously, though, you will want to make this known on your label. That disclaimer can be rendered as “CONTAINS SULFITES,” or “CONTAINS (A) SULFITING AGENT(S)”. This rule is especially important if the vessel contains more traces of sulfur dioxide than 10 parts per million. The type size should be the same as the aforementioned chemical agents. It must be reasonably legible.
If, within your container there are traces are of aspartame, you’ll need to include the marking “PHENYLKETONURICS: CONTAINS PHENYLALANINE.” The type sizes are restricted by the same rules that govern the above chemicals. This disclosure, though, must be delivered in all capital letters.
It must be legible, and placed somewhere where it can easily be seen.
F. Health Warning Statement
Gather around, gather around. Tonight, boys and girls, we’ll be talking about that Health Warning Statement. Now, this statement is a staple of all good, and soon to be approved by the TTB *uh wink*, beer labels.
So if your brew contains more than 0.5% alcohol, and I sure hope it does after writing all of this, you’ll want to include the following: “GOVERNMENT WARNING: (1) According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects. (2) Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and may cause health problems.”
Keep in mind that the words “GOVERNMENT WARNING,” must be in all caps and bold type. The rest of the statement should not appear in bold type. You are also not allowed to break the paragraph up in anyway, it must remain as one, the sake of the universe depends on it, or something like that.
When it comes to the size of the type, you already know there are a few rules to adhere to. Those containers with a capacity greater than 3 liters, have a type size of 3 millimeters. Those containers whose size falls within the parameters of 237 milliliters and 3 liters, have to adhere to a font size of 2 millimeters. For containers with a capacity of 237 milliliters, or lower, the minimum font size is 1 millimeters.
G. Country of Origin
If you’re having your beer shipped to you from outside the U.S., you’ll want to be up on these requirements. Firstly, you must file an application with the U.S. Customs Service. They’ll ask you to state the country where the beer was brewed, packed and its type, among other things.
Good news, there are no type or legibility requirements. You can place this statement on either the back, front, or side of the container.
Now You're Ready To Get Your Beer Labels Approved
Now, if you’ve made it through this wall of text, we applaud you. If you’ve done everything listed above, then congratulations, you're on your way.
Now, all you’ve got to do is wait out what may or may not be 90 days. Sorry.
Once that’s over, why not let the team of experts here at LabelValue help you with supplying your custom labels? You can get started on a free label quote here.
Or if you’re old school, give us a call at (800) 750-7764. We’re open Monday through Friday.
Thanks for reading!