At least one time in your life as a brewer, you will be asked to make a beer for a friend’s event. A wedding, a graduation, an anniversary – whatever. But, your friend will want you to make a custom label.
Under the old rules, a brewer was required to request a label approval for every single variation of your beer’s labels. Not anymore. Luckily, the TTB has decided to relax its requirements and allow brewers to use already-approved personalized labels with different graphics. That means that your approval for “30 Year Old Doug” might work for “Jess and Doug’s Anniversary Ale.”
According to TTB Guidance 2011-5:
….for personalized labels, it has long been our policy to permit the holder of an approved COLA to change items such as salutations, names, and event dates on the label without applying for a new COLA. Our 2010-1 guidance did not allow certificate holders to change the artwork or graphics on personalized labels without resubmission of the labels for approval. We have reconsidered this requirement and now permit certificate holders to make changes to the graphics or artwork on a previously approved personalized label without having to apply for a new certificate of label approval.
So, if you are planning on offering personalized bottles for your customers, remember these important rules. First, you must submit a COLA application for a personalized label template. On the application (item 19 of the paper application) you must advise the TTB that you are requesting a personalized template, stating the parts of the label that may change from label to label.
The TTB explains how to properly submit your template with this example:
“The graphics, salutations, dates, and artwork presented on this label may be changed to personalize this label.”
You should remember that this new permission does not apply to customized private labels that are not created and sold to the end consumer:
You should not confuse personalized labels with customized private labels created for purchasers other than the ultimate consumer. Such private labels may bear a brand name or artwork that is specific to the purchaser who is buying the product in order to sell it to consumers.
I am very pleased to see the TTB make this change, as its overly broad submission requirements indirectly prohibited brewers from being able to produce custom labels for consumers. Its a step in the right direction for the TTB.
Please remember that if you decide to offer personalized labels, and your template is approved, you are still bound by the restrictions of 27 CF 4.39, 5.42 and 7.29, pertaining to false or misleading information and health claims.