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Bad Medicine, Good Disclaimer

badm

There should be no doubt that a solid disclaimer can help make your label ok. And if there was, the Bad Medicine brand of spirits should put it to rest. In at least two places, the Bad Medicine labels say “The name Bad Medicine does not refer to any claimed health benefits.”

Not so long ago, it would be unthinkable that TTB would allow “medicine” or “health” talk — outside the mandated Government Warning. But the case law keeps changing, and so do the labels, along with it.

What other disclaimers are out there (beer, wine, spirits) and what ones should be?

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Beer, Pot and the Government

potJoe Sixpack this week has a good and thorough look at the many beer labels that talk about and tip a hat to their colleague, marijuana. The numbers and audacity are surely growing, as the old and antiquated laws fall by the wayside a bit. I like the quaint and funny reference to coats of arms:

With this month’s ballyhooed legalization of marijuana in Colorado, some beer makers are adding playful drug references to their brand names and labels, and regulators can do little to censor them.

Label oversight, a quirky if contentious area of federal alcohol law, has confounded breweries for years with often capricious standards that bear little on consumer protection.

Federal law, for example, oddly prohibits the use of coats of arms or wording that promises ‘pre-war strength,’ whatever that means.

Mr. Russell (aka Joe) also helped educate me that a safety meeting is not necessarily boring and dire:

Yes, there are limits. Dark Horse Brewing, in Michigan, lost its bid for Smells Like Weed IPA, though its hops, in fact, smell like pot. The name was later changed to Smells Like A Safety Meeting IPA. (A ‘safety meeting’ is slang for taking a break on the job to light up a doober.)

But expect to see fewer of those objections as more states move toward legalization.

Joe Sixpack has at least 16 label examples here and here.

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Shelton F’s with Beer, Art, and Commercial Speech

Way back in mid-December of 2012 I would have considered this Shelton Brothers COLA to be, perhaps, an aberration. But upon checking it again, today, I see a few more COLAs with the same word — arguably in need of the fig leafs above.

It is hard to believe that the government did not see the word at issue. On the above-linked COLA it appears no less than three times. This may signal that, as social mores liberalize and budgets shrink, the government has bigger (or fewer) fish to fry. Clearly, it signals that Daniel Shelton does not mind pushing the envelope, or many. The Amherst College magazine unabashedly explains that, after graduating from Amherst, Shelton:

went to a prestigious law school … then clerked for a judge (on a tropical Pacific isle, of all places) and finally secured a position at a venerable firm in Washington, D.C. (but convinced Shea & Gardner that he needed to spend a year bumming around Africa before starting.) … “My Amherst education has not been wasted at all. I use it more in this business than I ever did in lawyering. I never was completely comfortable with the idea of being a lawyer, anyway.”

This creaky old regulation still prohibits any beer labeling that is “obscene or indecent.” At this rate, however, it is difficult or uncomfortable to imagine something that goes too far — or too far for Dan. Many thanks to Mark for showing me these labels.

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Is Wine Vegan?

Not that I read the PETA stuff every day, but I could not resist when I stumbled on PETA’s article entitled, “Is Wine Vegan?” It makes the point that:

The majority of people are unaware that wine, although made from grapes, may have been made using animal-derived products. During the winemaking process, the liquid is filtered through substances called “fining agents.” This process is used to remove protein, yeast, cloudiness, “off” flavors and colorings, and other organic particles. Popular animal-derived fining agents used in the production of wine include blood and bone marrow, casein (milk protein), chitin (fiber from crustacean shells), egg albumen (derived from egg whites), fish oil, gelatin (protein from boiling animal parts), and isinglass (gelatin from fish bladder membranes). Thankfully, there are several common fining agents that are animal-friendly and used to make vegan wine. Carbon, bentonite clay, limestone, kaolin clay, plant casein, silica gel, and vegetable plaques are all suitable alternatives.

For those who would prefer not to torment an animal in the course of pouring a glass of wine, The Vegan Wine Guide already lists more than 400 wines. The Vegan Vine seems like a good example. As I flipped through a few of the 400, I was not surprised to see that few if any make direct claims that the wine qualifies as “vegan.” After all, TTB is not known for being footloose and fancy-free about various claims. Foursight Wines has said:

[we were] pleased that the TTB allowed us to state that our wines are suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets. Clos La Chance has begun marketing all vegan wines, but the TTB didn’t allow them to say that the wines didn’t use animal products (see the Wines & Vines article here). Frey is a noted vegan producer but their wines don’t list it on the label. So, unless anyone out there has a correction for me, I have yet to find another U.S. producer with a vegan and vegetarian statement on their wine labels.

If your tastes run in the other direction, you may prefer these libations replete with animal byproducts.

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wine


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Nobama Beer

What is it about beer that encourages people to say things — they would never want to say on cheese or ketchup labels? In the latest skirmish, an Oklahoma brewer came out with Nobama Beer during the past few weeks.

It appears that TTB was not too fond of this brand name, at least at first. But then Huebert Brewing Company, their lawyer, and the local NBC affiliate went on the offensive, to push the label through, as shown in this video. I must admit, I did not expect to see a TV news story about the finer points of TTB Form 5100.31, Exemptions from Label Approval, or TTB’s renowned beer label reviewer (the one person that has reviewed and approved the label for just about every beer currently available in the US). The first video shows that TTB at first allowed the beer only within Oklahoma, but the above approval, and this later video, shows that TTB shortly thereafter felt compelled to allow it more widely.

The examples of envelope-pushing beer labels are probably too numerous to mention here. And they are certainly not limited to the Obama bashers, as in this example.

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