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What’s New at Moonshine U.?

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The latest issue of Beverage Master just came in last week. It is the October-November issue and has a fine article about Moonshine University, if I may say so myself. A small excerpt is below, and you can find the entire article, and indeed the whole issue, here.

previousThere is a lot of talk about Moonshine University, launched in early 2013. As this Louisville, Kentucky training center moves toward year five of educating new distillers, I contacted some of the principals, to see how it’s going. The questions are from me, and most of the answers are from Christin Head, Registrar at Moonshine University.

1. What is Moonshine University?

Moonshine University is an artisan distillery and education center located in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. Our distillery is adjacent to our state-of-the-art classroom and is set up for small runs and hands-on distilling training. We offer technical training and business management education for start-ups, industry professionals, and those looking for careers in the distilling industry. Our courses are designed and taught by distillery shirtoperators, industry insiders, and world-renowned master distillers.

2. When did it start and how many classes so far?
Moonshine University opened in January 2013. We have just completed our thirteenth session of our flagship course, the 5-Day Distiller Course. All in all, we have held 67 classes at Moonshine University, with an additional 19 classes currently open for registration.

3. How many graduates?
Since 2013 we are happy to say we have had over 1200 students cross our threshold. We have over 600 attendees in our professional level classes, which includes the 5-Day Distiller Course.

If you are not already getting this bi-monthly craft spirits and brew magazine, it is easy to subscribe, here.

epicenter

Hillary on a Wine Label; Donald on Beer

With only two days to go until the second Presidential Debate, Trump and Clinton are clearly on everyone’s mind. Including the beer and wine companies shown above.

The Trump-inspired Blonde Ale label is from 5 Rabbit Cerveceria of Bedford Park, Illinois. It leaves no doubt they are not Trump fans. It says: “STOP THE HATE,” “CHINGA TU PELO” (look it up), “We decided to take a stand against racism,” “BULLIES AREN’T LEADERS.” Frank would love to have a can of this in time for the big event.

The Clinton-inspired Chardonnay label is from Scotto Family Cellars of Lodi, California. They have a couple types, and six approvals. We did not find any Trump-related labels at this company. Perhaps it would infringe on this.

Both seem to be real products and TTB apparently approves of both messages.

Cocktail Inspired Beer

STB-114 BarrelWorks_R.1

A beer with a reference to:  DISTILLERY, COCKTAILS, BOURBON, and a MANHATTAN?

Yes.

Big Formula Changes at TTB

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TTB put out Ruling 2016-3 at the end of September. It relates to spirits formula approvals, and is intended to cut some of the burdens for spirits companies and for TTB. It’s also sort of long. Word says it is 3,573 (carefully chosen) words. My mission is to break it down to 15% or less.

The gist is, TTB will help you avoid formula approval for many products in these big categories: vodka, rum, whisky, brandy. Some details, on each category, are below. If you want the whole story, you can go to the Ruling, and the elaborations at Industry Circular 2016-1 (for imports) and Guidance 2016-3. Rather than knocking out the formula approval requirements in the spirits regulations, TTB explains: “TTB will not accept for review new formulas submitted for products approved under this ruling. This ruling serves as the approval that is required by §§ 5.26, 5.27, and 19.348.”

  1. Vodka. The Ruling takes advantage of the fact that vodka already has a narrow standard of identity and explains that if you are clearly within it, the Ruling should be used instead of submitting a formula. Only a bit of sugar and citric acid allowed.
  2. Rum. The standard is not quite so narrow, as compared to vodka, but it’s apparently narrow enough. If you only add a bit of sugar, molasses, caramel, the Ruling should be used instead of submitting a formula.
  3. Whisky. The rule is similar, as to whiskey — except for the reminder that neither straight whisky, nor bourbon whiskey, can have any additives (with or without a formula). The former because that’s a big part of what straight means. The latter because the Bureau decided it is not (and should not be) customary to put additives in bourbon.
  4. Brandy. If you only add a bit of sugar, caramel, fruit juice, wine, the Ruling should be used instead of submitting a formula.

TTB does reserve the right to look into this further, as needed, on a case-by-case basis. The Ruling “provides immediate relief from the formula submission requirements for these specific products.”

TTB took a similar action with respect to malt beverage formulas about two years ago. This must have helped, because TTB later expanded this to other malt beverage products. TTB has also, at the end of September, expanded this approach, to wine. We have covered the beer issues in the past, we are covering spirits here, and may cover the wine issues in the future. I am guessing Ruling 2016-3 cuts several hundred formulas per year. LabelVision says TTB approved 748 vodkas in the most recent year (this is a count of label approvals, for unique brand names, on products coded as vodka, since most formula data is not public). A svelte 446 words.

Bacon Labeling 101

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After a full day wrangling booze labels, I heard a good story about bacon labeling on the way home from work (bringing home the bacon, as it were). The radio story emanated from a Bloomberg web story, “Why Supermarket Bacon Hides Its Glorious Fat.” The story touches upon the intersection of our love-hate relationship with fat and with government, and also upon labeling issues and wily businesspeople. Explaining that bacon has “one of the most unusual and underappreciated packaging formats of any supermarket product” it says:

The standard one-pound package shows the bacon slices fanned out, with only their leading edges exposed. The industry term for this is a shingle pack—a reference to the way the slices overlap. Because those front edges tend to feature more lean muscle than the fattier back edges, and because the face of the top slice is invariably covered by a paperboard flap containing the manufacturer’s logo and other branding information, the consumer sees a relatively unbroken field of red protein, creating the illusion that the bacon is leaner than it is.

Lest the bacon packaging hide the fat too much, the U.S. government requires the packaging to show the real story, at least on the back window. The window allows the consumer:

to see how the bacon truly looks in all its fatty glory. … [T]he shingle pack doesn’t just present an idealized bacon fantasy—it also provides a built-in reality check. It’s hard to think of another package that engages in such a clever sleight of hand on the front and then gives away the game on the back.

The story also has a nifty video about the machinery used to slice the bacon slabs optimally. In a radio version of the story, Lukas says the shingle pack is “ingeniously deceptive.”

And if you don’t think bacon shingles have a lot to do with booze marketing, you should take a peek through this window.

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