The Brewers Association continues to streamline the process for eligible brewers to adopt the new independent craft brewers seal. Obtaining a license to use the new seal is relatively straightforward and only requires (1) a valid Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) Brewer’s Notice, (2) confirmation that your brewery falls within the Brewers Association’s “craft brewer” definition, and (3) agreement to and compliance with certain licensing terms. More information about the new independent craft brewer seal can be found in our previous blog post, “In the Beer Aisle: Independent Craft Brewers to Stand Out from the Rest of the Pack(s).”

The Brewers Association has also confirmed with the TTB that a new or revised Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) will not be needed to add the seal to an already approved beer label. The TTB’s guidance applies when the addition of the independent craft brewer seal is the only substantive change to a label design. However, this provides brewers with confidence that the seal can be added to existing labels without the delay of COLA approval.

Typically, the TTB requires a new COLA if changes are made to any of the following required information on a beer label:

  • Brand name
  • Name and address of the bottler or address of your principal place of business
  • Alcohol content
  • Class and type designations (beer, ale, lager, etc.)
  • Net contents
  • Country of origin (for imported beer)
  • Health or government warning statement
  • Disclosures regarding certain ingredients

The TTB has strict guidelines on the type size, placement (front, back, or side label), background color, and legibility of the required information listed above. A more detailed explanation of these requirements can be found in the TTB’s Beverage Alcohol Manual: Basic Mandatory Labeling Information for Malt Beverages.

If, in the process of adding the Brewers Association’s new seal to a beer label, text, graphics, or other information is deleted, repositioned or added – beware! These may not be approved changes. The TTB maintains a List of Allowable Changes to Approved Labels, which helps to clarify when content on a label can be revised without filing a new or revised COLA.

The Brewers Association expects that the new independent craft brewer seal should appear on beer labels by the end of this summer – which should certainly be the case now that COLA approval is not necessarily required.