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Archive for May, 2012

Gluten Free Ruling

TTB announced a big policy change — about gluten free — just before the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

For many years before the announcement, plenty of companies have tried to make “gluten free” claims, but we still didn’t see any approved TTB labels referring to “gluten free.” A few weeks back, we thought we had one, when we heard a lot of buzz about Omission beer as above. But alas, even the Omission label has had a big omission when it comes to this particular claim.

All this is about to change in a big way, as result of this TTB Ruling, released late last week. As a result, we may begin to see various gluten free claims on TTB labels in the very near future.

To show the earlier TTB policy, a fairly recent TTB rejection is here, and it may help explain why Widmer did not come out and say it louder or earlier. TTB’s caution may well have been justified; Brewbound has explained:  “The release of Omission Beer comes just a few months after a study published in the Journal of Proteome Research found that eight commercial beers currently labeled as ‘gluten-free’ contained as much gluten as regular beer.”

Brewbound further explained that there are plenty of other beers that seek to minimize or eliminate gluten, but most of the others (such as this Bard’s Tale) are made with sorghum as a substitute for malted barley:

Ordinarily a new product release wouldn’t be so newsworthy but the launch of Omission marks the first time a U.S. craft brewer has been able to produce a gluten-free beer while still using malted barley in the brew process.

In the same article, the beer company’s CEO explains:

Omission beer is brewed with malted barley, but we’ve developed a proprietary process to reduce the gluten levels to well below the internationally accepted gluten-free standard of 20 parts per million of gluten. We are currently working with the TTB and the FDA to update the definition of the term ‘gluten-free.’… The inspiration behind Omission beers was personal. I am a 12-year celiac, our brewmaster’s wife is a celiac, as are several other members of our team. … We’re also going to talk about the extensive testing that Omission beers go through to ensure that every batch of Omission beer is well below the international gluten-free standard of 20 ppm. In fact, each bottle of Omission Beer caries a date stamp connecting the brew to its specific batch. Consumers can visit www.OmissionTests.com, type in the date code stamped on their bottle, and see that beers’ test results. … An estimated three million Americans have celiac disease.

Even though there is little to no gluten talk on Omission’s approved label (so far), there is plenty of gluten talk on the brand’s website. For example, the FAQ says “Is Omission beer gluten free?  According to federal guidelines, we aren’t legally allowed to claim that Omission beer is gluten-free outside of Oregon … . While the FDA proposed to define the term ‘gluten free,'” that definition has not been formally adopted … .”

As a result of TTB Ruling 2012-2, look for Widmer and many others to push much further toward gluten free claims in the near future.

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alcohol beverages generally, malt beverage


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The Triple Sec Lobby

The highly secretive and powerful Triple Sec lobby has struck again — this time to require at least one drop of triple sec in certain alcohol beverages. Google it as much as you wish, and you will find little about this uber-secret institution, rumored to have strong ties leading all the way back to France. That’s because it’s secret. Some even say that Sen. John Kerry, with his thinly disguised sympathies for many things French, is Triple Sec’s man in Washington.

On a more serious note, for many years, TTB has required at least some triple sec in products that purport to be margaritas. The policy is here, at page 13 (scroll down to Margarita). The policy is in TTB’s “Beverage Alcohol Manual” for spirits. The BAM can be a handy resource to explain and supplement the regulations. Sometimes, as here, it goes considerably beyond what the law or regulations say. In this particular case, it seeks to mandate that every margarita must have:  “Tequila, triple sec and lime or lemon juice or oil or natural lime or lemon flavor.” Here is a recent example of TTB seeking to enforce the rule.

Does such a rule make any sense in this day and age of scarce resources? What is the worst that would happen if such a rule went away? Some may say the rule does not go far enough — and should similarly apply to malt beverages, wines, cocktails prepared at retail premises and even homes. If you have any doubt about the hushed-up threat presented by this rule (explaining how to make various cocktails), do not forget that the same rule also requires just a little bit of cream — or crème as some call it — in a Grasshopper or Pink Squirrel.

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distilled spirits specialty


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