PLEASE NOTE THE DATE CHANGE:
Our next membership meeting will be Thursday, June 20, 10am-1pm (lunch included) at Lost Ark Distilling in Columbia.
Thanks to our meeting sponsor, American Pest!
TWO quick, but important, updates about Craft Spirits Week (June 16 – 22).
#1: Event Submission Reminder
Registration is open. You can submit your events here:
EVENT SUBMISSION LINK
– Please fill out all fields
– For Event Categories: please type the State
– For Event Tags, no need to go crazy here, 3 or so should be fine (maybe something like city, state, distillery tour/party/happy hour/tastings/class/etc)
(See here for events from 2018 to get an idea of what’s been done: https://bit.ly/2NgmAC4)
#2: Retail Events/Total Wine
If you’d like to participate in tasting events, Total Wine expressed interest in holding in-store demos for brands that are carried in local stores. You can sign up at the below link.
They ask for about 6-8 weeks advance notice so if there’s interest, please sign up sooner rather than later since Craft Spirits Week is a little less than 8 weeks away.
On the Total Wine demo request form, be sure to indicate it’s for Craft Spirits Week and please let me know if you do sign up so that I can follow up with my contact.
Interested in becoming part of the Whiskey Rebellion Trail? Now’s your chance! Wigle Whiskey is working with DMOs from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to develop a new east coast distillery trail. All distilleries in the state of Maryland are invited to become inaugural members. Distilleries who come on board this year will be pivotal in helping us build out the first round of itineraries and passes.
Any questions – reach out to Rachel Fontana (Sagamore Spirit) Rachel@sagamorespirit.com
Let her know by Wednesday, April 10th if you’re interested.
Hello Maryland Distillers,
This is your last call to sign up for our DrinkMaryland Series: Centreville & North Beach events.
Please complete the links below to sign up
Centreville- June 15: https://forms.gle/bRuufBch1ZDHRcBp8
North Beach- June 29: https://forms.gle/vyCS6W6kuZThwAPy7
Feel free to reach out to Abby if you have any questions (firstname.lastname@example.org)
In an effort to excite the public and grow the audience for the upcoming Frederick Spirits Festival we’ll be posting a list of featured spirits and cocktails that each attending distillery will be pouring at the Frederick Fairgrounds!
Also, please visit this post for some ideas about how you can help the Guild promote this event.
It’s time to ask your congressman and senators to co-sponsor the Federal Excise Tax reduction bill. See below for the blast from ACSA. CLICK HERE to get the contact info for your US Senators and US Congressman. and send them an email to ask them to co-sponsor bipartisan bills S. 362 and H.R. 1175.
What is at Stake
The reduced Federal Excise Tax (FET) will expire on December 31, 2019. The rate will increase from $2.70 to $13.50 per pg.
In 2017, Congress enacted, for the first time, parity for craft spirits and provided a reduced FET for distillers. Before the passage of H.R. 1 in December of 2017, it was a one-size-fits-all flat tax rate on large and small distillers; craft spirits producers previously paid 5.4 times more FET than craft brewers and 16.4 times more FET than small wineries for equal quantities of beverage alcohol.
Legislation to permanently extend the craft FET rate has been introduced in the Senate and House, bill numbers S.362 and H.R. 1175.
What YOU Must Do
Craft distillers must communicate with their Senators and Members of Congress now and ask them to co-sponsor bipartisan bills S. 362 and H.R. 1175.
Distillers should also ask their Senators and Members to speak to the leadership of the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee and ask that the FET bills be added to any tax legislation moving through the Congress.
What you Need to Convey
The tax relief is working, just as Congress believed it would, by way of direct reinvestment into businesses.
Craft distillers are hiring new employees, purchasing American made equipment, expanding distillery spaces, and increasing grain purchases from local agriculture.
The growth of craft distilling is supporting Main Street, small business job growth, tourism, exports, rural and urban America economic development, and locally sourced products, the vast majority of which are made and sourced in the U.S.
Why the Industry is Unified in this Effort
The legislation further helps craft brewers, vintners, and cideries. This is the reason every major beer, wine, cider and spirits group has endorsed these bills.
Immediate Step to Take NOW
Send a personal email or call and share your story of how you are using the FET reduction to support YOUR business. Most importantly,
Please call or e-mail your Congressman and Senators today and ask them to co-sponsor S. 362 (202-224-3121) www.senate.gov, and H.R. 1175 (202-225-3121) www.house.gov.
The Frederick Spirits Festival is just over a month away. Let’s make the final push promoting this event and have another success for the Guild in April.
Frederick Craft Spirits Festival
April 20, 2019
Campaign Window (March 18, 2019 – April 19, 2019)
Be sure to mention Maryland Distillers Guild in your posts–this allows us to expedite sharing your content via reposts and comments.
Facebook: Tag facebook.com/MarylandDistillers
Instagram: Tag @marylandspirits
Twitter: Tag @marylandspirits
Determining your featured cocktail for the festival is encouraged to both help planning and marketing of the festival. Knowing your distillery’s cocktail allows both your distillery and the Distillers Guild to market your presence at the festival.
The goal of the social media efforts for the upcoming Frederick Spirits Festival is to promote both your business and our industry. By using some of the content suggested below, we hope that your followers and consumers will embrace your brand and be encouraged to champion Maryland spirits!
Share content with your followers about new spirit releases:
Ex: “Frederick Spirits Festival is right around the corner! We’re celebrating by releasing XXXX in our tasting room this week. Your support of our distillery and our industry is greatly appreciated. See you soon! #MDSpirits #FrederickSpiritsFestival”
Promote the overall event throughout the month:
Ex: “Spirits. Food. Music. We can’t wait to show you what we’ve been making at this year’s Frederick Spirits Festival! #FrederickCraftSpiritsFestival
Discuss your featured cocktail:
Ex: “Come try our exclusive Maryland Martini at this year’s Frederick Craft Spirits Festival. We’ll tell you our secret ingredient if you come find us on April 20! #LocalLiquor #FrederickSpiritsFestival”
Have a call to action:
Ex: “We’re excited to share this year’s batches with you all at The Frederick Spirits Festival. This year we’re bringing your favorite XXXX to fill your liquor cabinet. Get your tickets and join us! https://www.frederickspiritsfestival.com/
Link to event images:
Dear Maryland Distilleries,
We are excited to announce a new event for the 2019 year. DrinkMaryland- Gaithersburg will be hosted on June 7th (Friday) from 3:30pm-8pm. If you are interested please sign up below:
TTB Proposes to Overhaul Labeling and Advertising Regulations
On November 26, 2018, the Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) issued a major proposed rule to overhaul and “modernize” the federal regulations that govern the labeling and advertising of beer, wine, and distilled spirits. The proposed rule would, among other things, (1) integrate certain Industry Circulars and TTB rulings into the base level regulations on labeling and advertising; (2) re-organize the current labeling regulations for beer, wine, and spirits to create more uniform/understandable language and structure across all classes of alcohol and separate out the advertising regulations into a new standalone part; and (3) introduce certain substantive changes as required by international agreements, case law, and the legislative mandate of the TTB. The proposed rule is currently under a 90 day Notice and Comment period that was extended until March 26th, due to the federal shutdown. Interested parties can submit their comments by going to the following Regulations.gov link. Public comments are essential for a federal agency and often help to inform the choices it makes regarding new regulations. Furthermore, submitting comments about the proposed rule creates certain legal requirements for the TTB that may allow parties to challenge a Final Rule.
The below parts summarize the most important proposed changes for domestic manufacturers across all alcohol categories, and then those that specifically apply to beer. However, it is not an exhaustive review of every change. Proposed regulatory amendments that are not likely to substantively impact a business have been excluded.
1) The proposed rule would change or eliminate a number of definitions (“container,” “interstate commerce,” and “person”), and update several references to terms used in the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) to match the contemporary use of those terms in the IRC. The new definition for container will be “any can, bottle, box with an internal bladder, cask, keg, barrel, or other closed receptacle, in any size or material, that is for use in the sale of[…].” This will clarify that every vessel, regardless of type, that contains an alcoholic beverage has to meet the labeling requirements. Additionally, “person,” will now include LLCs. The change would clarify that both natural and corporate persons are subject to the labeling requirements.
2) Any “adulterated alcoholic beverage,” as determined by the Food and Drug administration (FDA), would be considered automatically mislabeled, even if the brand owner had obtained a COLA, and such a product would be banned from sale in any instance in which the TTB has jurisdiction.In relevant part, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, defines an adulterated alcoholic beverage as anything that contains, a substance (in sufficient quantity) to be poisonous or detrimental to health or otherwise “unsafe,” or any food additive that is “unsafe.”For example, in 2010, both the TTB and FDA determined that adding caffeine directly to an alcoholic product (as opposed to coffee being used in the manufacturing process), rendered that product adulterated.It is unclear what the full scope of such a change could be. The proposed rule does not make reference to certain relevant TTB circulars and rulings. For example, would any ingredient or process that is currently considered traditional and therefore exempt from recipe approval, still be allowed?Would a wine or spirit that complies with the formula guidelines in TTB Rulings 2016-2 and 2016-3, respectively, also remain permitted?
3) The proposed rule would allow wine, spirits, and beer that are directly sold into export by a winery, distillery, or brewery to be exempt from domestic labeling requirements, however; products that are first sold onto another party, prior to export, will be subject to domestic labeling requirements.
4) The proposed rule would expand the applicability of FDA regulations on alcohol manufacturers, and authorize the TTB to require that companies provide evidence that they are complying with FDA rules related to the safety of food ingredients and additives, as well as, the safety of any packaging materials and processes. The rules would also make clear that complying with TTB requirements for label and formula approval doesn’t relieve a manufacturer from its obligations under FDA regulations.
5) Regulations governing Certificates of Exemption for label approval, which are granted to wine and spirit bottlers, would require the bottler to demonstrate that (A) the product is not being sold outside the State that in which it is produced and (B) require “For sale in [name of State] solely,” be added to any label for a product covered under the certificate of exemption. It essentially just codifies the current requirements under Form 5100.31
6) The proposed rule would allow a TTB officer to require that a distiller, vintner, or brewer to submit a formula for review either prior to the or after the issuance of a COLA. It also simplifies and standardizes the process for submission across all alcohol types and provides that a regulated party may submit formula information via Formulas Online.
7) A new set of rules governing relabeling would permit all classes of manufacturer to re-label products, after they have left the bonded premises, without obtaining additional permission from the TTB to do so, as long as the new label has a COLA. This would allow a manufacturer to replace damaged labels on products that are already at a wholesaler or retailer or “fix” labels that are not consistent with new branding.
8) With exception to brand names and certain optional phrases (ex. Premium malt beverage, proudly brewed by, etc.), the proposed changes will require that any additional descriptive or explanatory information on a label be kept “separate and apart” from mandatory information, such as the health warning statement or disclosure of specified ingredients. Additionally, the TTB proposes to expand on requirements that mandatory information appear on a contrasting background.
9) The proposed rule would make it clear that any statement or representations that are currently prohibited to appear on the label of a container may not appear on any other packaging that accompanies the product for sale at retail. Additionally, any closed packaging that accompanies the product for sale at retail will be required to bear all the same mandatory information required on the label for the product itself. For example, any box, carton, case, or carrier (excluding something like a standard 6-pack holder where the container can be lifted out) would now need to feature all the same mandatory label information as the bottle or can have.
10) The proposed rule would explicitly allow certain statements related to the sustainable environmental or agricultural practices, social justice principles, and similar sentiments of a manufacturer to appear on a label, as long as those statements are truthful, specific, and not misleading. Additionally, manufacturers may feature statements or logos of any certifications they obtain from an organization that reflect adherence to the aforementioned principles.
11) The TTB proposes to add a new requirement that would prohibit statements on labels that are “misleading” as to the age, origin, identity, or other characteristics, even if the content of the statement is technically true. As an example, the TTB describes a statement that is true, but which lacks material information, in a way that hides the complete truth from a consumer. This proposed rule is vague, and it is unclear whether using a term such as “oak aged” for a process that involves the addition of oak chips, as opposed to aging in a barrel, would be considered to violate such a provision.
12) The rule would amend the current regulations that prohibit the use of the American flag, or other symbols tied to the United States or the American armed forces, as long as the use of these symbols does not mislead consumers that the product in question is somehow endorsed by or affiliated with the United States government or its armed forces. Furthermore, the proposed regulations would allow use of the American flag to indicate country of origin. Alcohol manufacturers in the DMV area may be particularly interested in this provision, as it opens up all sorts of possibilities for labeling that are currently prohibited.
13) The TTB has expressed concern in the notice regarding the use of terms in regards to an alcohol product, that is commonly associated with another type of alcohol, i.e. the use of terms such as bourbon on labels associated with beer products, or sherry on labels associated with a distilled spirit. The proposed rule would clarify when such terminology could and could not be used. As a general rule, true statements of process or ingredients would not be prohibited, so long as they do not tend to mislead customers as to the contents of a product. For example, a whiskey label could say “sherry cask aged,” but not, “sherry flavored.”
1) The TTB proposes to modify the definition of “age” to require that any use of the term on a label only refer to the time that a spirit is stored in an oak barrel with direct contact to the wood. This would suggest that any spirit that is stored in a waxed barrel, or any spirit that goes through some of the “quick aging” processes that are now being employed in the industry, could not be referred to as aged. Additionally, every whiskey, with the exception of straight corn whiskey, will need to be aged in charred new oak barrels to carry that designation. The definition of “grain” would also be modified to include the seeds of psuedocereals, such as quinoa. This will expand what types of agricultural products that can be used in a spirit and still allow it to carry a traditional designation such as whisky.
2) The TTB is also seeking input on whether to introduce a definition for “oak barrel,” which would limit that term to “cylindrical oak drums of approximately 50 gallons capacity.” If the definition is introduced, spirits aged in vessels of a different size or shape would no longer meet any requirement where aging in an oak barrel is part of the definition. The agency would like to feedback on whether these limits should be adopted.
3) The proposed rule would provide distillers with an allowance in the statement of the alcohol content of their spirit. The stated alcohol content would now be allowed to deviate from the actual alcohol content up to 0.3% above or below what is stated on the bottle. Currently, distillers are subject to a strict accuracy requirement that may not coincide with the reality of ethyl alcohol volatility. 
4) Proposed Section 5.66(f) would introduce a new requirement that the State of original distillation be shown on the label. Since many new distilleries source older spirits from other facilities, and then further age or finish them at their own facility, this would introduce a requirement that those distilleries disclose where the spirit was originally made. Additionally, the proposed rule would allow distilleries to include aging statements for all types of spirts, except neutral grain spirits. So an aged flavored rum or gin could now be designated as such.
5) The TTB is proposing to introduce a new requirement for whisky, whereby any spirit that meets a specific sub-type of whisky (bourbon, rye, etc.) would need to use that designation rather than the more generic designation of whisky. Furthermore, the TTB is soliciting comments on whether to introduce a new class for “white or unaged whisky,” that could be used on labels. This would potentially allow newer distilleries more flexibility in how to label their products, where the grain bill and distillation process would otherwise qualify that spirt to be designated as a whisky.
6) A new definition for “gin,” would now make the use of other aromatics, besides juniper, optional. It would also remove a designation for Geneva (Holland) gin.Additionally, the TTB proposes to add specific designations for a large number of cordials and liqueurs, allowing them to be labeled under the traditional name alone (ex. Ouzo, Sambuca, Crème de, Schnapps, etc.).
7) The TTB proposes to change the rules for geographical designations. A spirit would be allowed to bear a geographic designation, even if it is not considered generic, if they geographic indicator represents a type of spirit, and the label includes a qualifier such as “style or type.” Additionally, the TTB would introduce a list of terms it considers to have become generic, even when those designations used to be associated with a specific location, i.e. Aquavit.
8) The TTB is considering whether to eliminate the current requirements regarding maximum head space in a bottle and obtaining prior approval when a distiller wants to use a bottle with a distinctive shape. Under the proposed standard, a distiller would only need to abide by standard fill requirements and clearly mark the net contents of the bottle.
By way of disclaimer, the above summary only looked at how the proposed rule would change requirements relative to current regulations. However, it did not analyze all the proposed changes against existing TTB and federal court rulings, or TTB industry circulars, to determine if the legal effects are indeed the same as claimed in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Furthermore, there may be state level definitions and requirements that are tied to changes in federal law. A proposed rule of this magnitude involves a lot of nuance and complexity. If you have any specific questions about how a proposed change will affect your business, please consult with an attorney.
Gregory Parnas is an alcoholic beverage attorney based in Washington, DC. His practice focuses on craft alcohol producers in the DC Metro area. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact him at Greg.Parnas@DCBeveragelaw.com
83 Fed. Reg. 60,569 (Nov. 26, 2018)
21 CFR §342(a)(1) (2005)
See TTB Industry Circular 2010-8, https://www.ttb.gov/rulings/ttb-ruling-2015-1-attachment-1.pdf
See TTB Ruling 2015-1, Attachment 1, https://www.ttb.gov/rulings/ttb-ruling-2015-1-attachment-1.pdf
 83 Fed Reg. 60,570
Supra at 60,571
Id. at 60,572
Id. at 60,573
Id. at 60,574
Id. at 60,577
Id. at 60,577
Id. at 60,578
Id. at 60,645
Id. at 60,653
Id. at 60,597
Id. at 60,666
Id. at 60,667
Id. at 60,599
We are thrilled to announce that the 2019 Hops & Harvest Festival will be held on October 5th
at the Lakefront (same location as previous years) in Columbia, Maryland.
Going into the 4thyear, expected attendance is 3000 guests over the course of the two sessions
(12:00 – 4:00 and 5:00 – 9:00). Retail sales including full pours, to-go product, and merch are
encouraged! So, please plan accordingly.
To register, please visit https://goo.gl/forms/. If you have questions, please contact Grow and
Fortify’s Event Director, Abby Casarella, at email@example.com.
We look forward to seeing you all this fall!