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Dan and Withers

Dan Christopherson and Withers Hurley have joined the firm in recent months. Dan is a trademark and beer lawyer with at least 7 years of relevant experience as a lawyer. Since graduating law school in Denver in 2007, Dan has visited at least 400 breweries (and some wineries too).

Withers is a billing assistant and has wide experience in helping to run small firms. She was raised within a few miles of the office, and ran a busy and one of the earliest e-commerce websites. We welcome Withers and Dan and look forward to them making things easier for us and our clients.

Updated 1/2014.

TTB Shutdown

TTB shut down most operations on October 1, 2013. Even before that, many labels and formulas and permits were substantially jammed up. When TTB comes back, the detays are likely to be brutal. More details here.

Updated 10/2013.

TTB Abolishes Label Expedites

In the first week of February 2011, TTB advised beverage companies that label and formula approvals may take up to 90 days or so -- and those applications will be handled on a strictly first-come-first-served basis. After many years or even decades, TTB will no longer allow "expedites," even in the most urgent circumstances. Before this change, it was entirely possible to get an urgent label approval within 2-3 days. Details here. Several months later, TTB began allowing "accelerated" processing, but only in extraordinary circumstances.

Updated 9/2013.

TTB, FDA, FTC and States all Gang Up to Ban Joose, Four Loko and other CABs

Back in late 2010, even though our government seems incapable of balancing budgets or agreeing on much, virtually the entire governmental system mobilized to squish Joose and Four Loko like a bug.

Updated 2/2011.

List of More than 180 Approved Alcohol Beverages Containing Caffeine

These drinks (containing both alcohol and caffeine) are controversial, but the controversy and challenges do not seem to have slowed the rate of new product introductions. Here is a list of more than 180 TTB-approved alcohol beverage products containing caffeine. That is, in each case the label specifically mentions the addition of caffeine, guarana, cola nuts, cocoa, coffee, tea or yerba mate. A large percentage of the products on this list were approved since the fall of Sparks and Tilt.

Then, on November 12, 2009, FDA aimed a bazooka at most such products with added caffeine. FDA sent a letter along these lines to about 30 of the below-listed companies. It is worth noting that a big portion of these brands fell by the wayside a long time ago.

Updated 3/2010.

TTB User Fees Unlikely

In a June 24, 2009 speech at the 2009 TTB Expo, TTB Administrator John Manfreda confirmed that President Obama's 2010 budget called for TTB to derive almost all of its funding from user fees. The fees would cover retailers, wholesalers, importers, and producers, and would range up to $1,000 per year (totaling about $84 million per year). Around the same time, a group of industry associations pressed the House Subcommittee on Appropriations to drop the tax. By early July, a Senate subcommittee had rejected the proposal, as reported by the National Association of Convenience Stores.

TTB's May 22, 2009 Newsletter explained further:

The recently released President's budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 proposes a significant change for TTB funding. In the past, TTB has been funded by Congress through appropriated resources. The FY 2010 budget proposal transforms TTB from an appropriated Bureau to an entity that will generate fees in order to fund its operations. These fees will shift the burden of paying for the services we provide from the general public to the parties in the alcohol industry.

To accomplish this, legislation will be proposed to allow TTB to establish a permanent program for FY 2010 and the future fiscal years, requiring the payment of annual fees from its industry members. The fees will range from $300 to $1,000, and will vary depending on the type and size of the business entity. In general, these fees will support the Bureau's core mission and the funds will be used to continue to provide benefits to retailers, wholesalers, breweries, wineries, distilleries, and industrial alcohol businesses. In particular, TTB's efforts will continue to ensure that alcohol products are not contaminated, misbranded or illegally marketed, and will prevent dishonest persons from entering into the alcohol distribution system.

While this approach has been proposed under the President's budget, the final decision as to the method of funding the Bureau will ultimately rest with Congress. It our belief that non-appropriated funding through an industry targeted fee system will put TTB in a stronger position to move forward with our mission and initiatives in the future.

Updated 8/2009.

Absinthe; No Longer Banned in the US

Updated 4/08.

Caffeinated Alcohol Beverages

First it was plain old Maxwell House. Then it was Red Bull. Now it’s in a liquor store near you. It’s caffeine – in everything from beer to vodka. There is a fast-moving trend toward more caffeine in more alcohol beverages; we have assembled a collection of recent approvals here.

Updated 9/07.

Allergen Labeling

Allergen Labeling. The age-old wine label is getting more complicated by the year what with Organics, Meritage, Import Certification -- and the new allergen labeling requirements.

Allergen Labeling is on the way - On July 26, 2006, TTB began allowing allergen information on labels for beer, wine and spirits. For now and the next several months at least, allergen labeling is voluntary. But if you elect to make any reference to any of the eight "major food allergens," you would need to comply with the interim rule, and you would probably need to get a new label approval. The "major food allergens" are: milk, egg, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts, soybeans, and their proteins. The interim rule does not seem to have any special treatment if producer is very small, or if the amount of the allergen is very small. By way of example, many wines contain fish proteins as a fining agent. The bottler is not required to say anything about these proteins under current rules, but if the bottler elects to say anything about allergens, the bottler would need to list every allergen in the wine, as CONTAINS: FISH. This could be on any label (front, back, side, neck). By the same token, if you describe your product as WHEAT BEER rather than BEER, you would probably need to get a new label approval and declare CONTAINS: WHEAT on the label.

  • Interim rule. Effective July 26, 2006. This is largely voluntary.
  • Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. This would take something close to the interim rule and remove the voluntary aspect. It is likely to take months or years before it becomes final, even though there is little organized opposition.
  • See an overview of the new requirements prepared by an experienced colleague.
  • Let us know when you see examples of new labels, with allergen declarations, and we will post some examples here.
Updated 8/06.

Import Certification

Beginning in August of 2005, many imported wines will need a new certification to show that the wine complies with the law in the country where produced. Wines from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, and New Zealand are exempt.

Updated 11/05.

Low Carbs

TTB allows low carbohydrate claims in advertising and labeling, for beer, wine and spirits.

Updated 8/04.

Homeland Security

Homeland Security Act Splits ATF, Creates TTB. ATF's alcohol beverage functions ( e.g. , tax, permits, labeling, regulatory) moved to a new, "Alcohol & Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau" (TTB) on January 24, 2003.

Updated 1/2003.

FDA Food Bioterrorism Rules

Due to the Bioterrorism Act of 2002, and a proposal published by FDA early this year, almost all food companies, worldwide, must file a registration with FDA by the end of 2003. Food companies outside the US must designate a US agent to act as a liaison between the company and FDA. Many details are available at

  • is a service of this law firm.
  • Many other details on this important topic are available at the FDA website.

Updated 7/2003.

COLA Watch

We frequently review recent label approvals to get an early view of important trends. Here we present some of the more intriguing of the recent approvals.

  • Including several labels affected by ATF Ruling 2002-2.

Updated 6/2003.

COLAs Online

TTB is quickly moving toward a much more modern, computerized system for reviewing and approving labels. As TTB makes these plans public, we will describe them here.

Updated 2/2002.


For many years, the extent of TTB's authority to revoke label approvals was unclear. With recently promulgated rules, TTB has attempted to make it clear that it has ample authority to revoke COLAs in some circumstances. Here we present a review and discussion of the pertinent issues.

Updated 2/2002.


Consult this link to keep tabs on recent TTB final rules and notices of proposed rulemaking.

Non-Traditional Containers

TTB has proposed to ban alcohol beverages packed in small or unusual containers. The proposal has such wide-ranging potential that more than 80 concerned parties have submitted comments. Read an analysis of these comments, reprinted from The Bar.

Updated 2/2002.

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