Archive for August, 2009
The imagery is still striking, after all these years. Don’t you think? So much so, I am surprised that lots of alcohol beverage companies have not used this image in the past. It is also surprising that there is no TTB or other prohibition on the use of this famous image.
The Library of Congress explains that the poster goes all the way back to 1916 and may be the most famous poster in the world. (More famous than Farrah?) It was used to recruit soldiers for World War I and World War II. The original poster shows “Uncle Sam,” the “national personification of the United States and sometimes more specifically of the United States government.”
The wine is produced by Oreana Wine Company in Santa Barbara, California. For another, almost as famous poster used to support World War II, Rosie the Riveter is here (now in support of Oregon Dry Rosé).
You can Google “energy vodka” or “energy beer” and find millions of links in each case. But you won’t find much by way of references to “energy” on TTB-regulated labels. TTB seems to be dead-set against allowing this term, almost without regard to the context. Edison Light Beer illustrates this. The product does not even contain caffeine or other stimulants. The label does, however, make a passing reference to “energy,” saying: “Edison brings new energy to light.” Or at least it did. TTB banished the term in this March 2007 temporary approval. By the time of this March 2008 replacement approval, Edison’s energy was dissipated without a trace.
TTB has been allowing caffeine in alcohol beverages since the day it became TTB, and ATF allowed it for decades prior. At first, it was most often found in things like coffee liqueur.
Then it jumped to beer about eight years ago (with this Sparks label that seems to be the earliest beer with caffeine approval, and one of the first with directly added caffeine — in beer, wine or spirits).
Well it took a while, but our favorite alkaloid has finally made the jump to wine. So far, we find at least four wines with clear evidence of caffeine. They are:
- Cafe Lue Orange Wine with Coffee
- Chang Rai Green Tea Wine
- Charbay Aperitif Wine with Tea Leaves
- P.I.N.K. Sake with Caffeine
Somehow I don’t imagine the skateboard crowd getting crazy with Charbay Aperitif Wine or P.I.N.K. Sake. A list of more than sixty approvals, for alcohol beverages with caffeine, is here.
This label was pretty good until about a year ago.
Then TTB decided it’s not really a “malt beverage.” TTB decided this because Bard’s Tale Beer is made without malted barley. TTB Ruling 2008-3 explains that a brewery product can not be a “malt beverage,” subject to TTB label rules, unless it contains hops and malted barley.
Bard’s Tale is made with sorghum instead of malted barley because those with Celiac Disease can not tolerate the gluten common to barley. In July of 2008 TTB handed the issue to FDA by publishing the Ruling. About one year later, in August of 2009, FDA accepted the issue by publishing a Draft Guidance on “Labeling of Certain Beers.” In this document, FDA explains that certain beers are subject to FDA’s labeling rules and are not subject to the FAA Act rules enforced by TTB. As a result, such beers don’t need TTB label approval but they do need a statement of ingredients, allergen labeling, nutrition facts, and a Government Warning.
It gets confusing. Some beers are TTB and some are primarily FDA. Some wines are TTB and some are primarily FDA. At least we can take comfort in the fact that all spirits are TTB. Unless they are non-potable (as in cooking spirits or flavors) — in which case once again they flip over to FDA for their main labeling regulation.
As a result of the tossing and turning noted above, the current status of the Bard’s label above is — “surrendered.” Here is an example of Anheuser-Busch’s comparable product (Redbridge), without malted barley. It is also “surrendered” and handed off to FDA.
Poor TTB. They have to make a decision about every cotton-picking label that comes down the pike. And every now and then they have to bite their tongue and affirmatively approve labels they might otherwise prefer to ignore. By contrast, FDA can simply ignore all the inconvenient labels.
But for the requirement to review and approve every alcohol beverage label before it goes to market, TTB could have tried to ignore the naked lady in flagrante delicto on the Cantillon label. The State of Missouri was not amused and filed a complaint, in the late 1990s, charging that the label is obscene: “The label for Gambrinus shows a drawing of a naked woman, with breasts visible, seated on the lap of a figure alleged to be Gambrinus, the Flemish mythological ‘king of beer.'” After a hearing, the Commissioner apparently decided the label did not violate Missouri law, and other states came to a similar conclusion.
The Commissioner had the choice to ignore the label. The current federal law often leads directly to TTB affirmatively approving a motley collection of Leghumpers and Ball Busters. Somehow I doubt the drafters of the FAA Act envisioned this scenario.