For those considering shipping beer across state lines, to do so lawfully, you’ll need a Certificate of Label Approval or a COLA for short. If you’re already distributing in another state, then you might have (though we hope you haven’t) encountered pushback from Battle Martin, the hardworking Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) employee who handles all of the label approvals (more than 29,500 this year…). With a name as epic as Battle Martin, it’s fitting that The Daily Beast has written a nice sort of tribute to the man. The article also does a good job of pointing out just how persnickety the label-approval process is due to the myriad labeling laws controlling what you can and can’t say on your bottles. If you’re getting close to making an out-of-state push, it’s worth checking out the article to get an idea of what you’re up against. Of course, given how frequently certain label rejections light up social media, you may already be in the know. There are things your labels must say, and there are things they cannot say, and there are a lot of grey areas in between. For example, labels can’t confuse or mislead consumers, and they can’t directly or impliedly tout the effects of drinking your booziest batch of grog. Artwork, too, plays a big role in whether your label stands. You can’t, for example, make Santa look too toasted (see here).
Given how complicated beer-labeling laws are, it’s worth sending a note to your beer attorney before bringing in an artist to work up a design or toiling over a hilarious beer description only to find out you’ll need to make deep revisions to comply with the law. Folks like us at Reiser Legal PLLC are here to help, having battled Battle and made it out on the other side. Feel free to get in touch, and for further reading, check out some of our past posts relating to beer labeling and the COLA process here, here, and here.