Bureaucratic Relief: New “Traditional” Ingredients & Processes Don’t Require Formula Approval

There is good news for brewers who are tired of waiting for formula approvals from TTB (currently 74 days, according to TTB): you may not need it.  On June 5, 2014, TTB issued a fairly significant ruling, Ingredients and Processes Used in the Production of Beer Not Subject to Formula Requirements.  The ruling clearly spells out which Exempt Ingredients and Processes are now deemed “traditional” and, therefore, do not require a TTB formula approval.

Exempt ingredients include:

  • Fruits: apples, apricots, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, juniper berries, lemons, oranges, peaches, pumpkins, raspberries, and strawberries;
  • Spices: allspice, anise, pepper/peppercorns, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, cocoa (powder or nibs), coriander, ginger, nutmeg, orange or lemon peel or zest, star anise, and vanilla; and
  • Other: brown sugar, candy (candi) sugar, chili peppers, chocolate, coffee (beans or grounds), honey, maple sugar/syrup, molasses/blackstrap molasses, and lactose.

Exempt processes include:

  • Aging beer in barrels (or using wood from barrels) that previously were (or were not) used to age wine or spirits, so long as the barrels do not contain a discernible quantity of wine or spirits.

In the past, brewers using some of these ingredients/processes could not get a TTB label approval until they had a formula approval in place.  Now, many of these brewers can skip right ahead to submitting a label for approval.  This may also speed up the label processing times (currently 17 days for beer), as fewer labels will be hung up waiting for formula approvals.

The ruling also provided some guidelines as to Examples of Adequate and Inadequate Designations, which will help brewers ascertain how to appropriately describe their now “traditional” beers.

Update: Susan Evans at the TTB added this today:

We are going to add a little guidance about pending formula applications to the TTB Newsletter that will go out later today, but feel free to pass this along to others at BA and to any of your members who may not see this in the TTB Newsletter:


In this ruling, TTB  exempts malt beverages made with certain ingredients, such as honey, certain fruits, certain spices, and certain food ingredients, from the formula requirements of 27 CFR 25.55.  TTB has also determined that certain processes, such as aging beer in barrels that were previously used in the production or storage of wine or distilled spirits, do not require formula approval.

TTB Ruling 2014-4 is effective immediately. Brewers with applications pending in Formulas Online for exempted products may withdraw these applications and proceed immediately to obtaining label approval (if required).  As they come up for processing, TTB will reject any remaining pending and all new formulas applications for exempted products indicating that no analysis of the  formula is required.

For quick reference view Exempt Ingredients and Processes Determined to be Traditional Under TTB Ruling 2014–4.

About Dan

Daniel Christopherson of DCBrewLaw.com is a beer and trademark attorney at Lehrman Beverage Law. He is an avid craft beer enthusiast who helps new and established breweries develop their business models, comply with the TTB and FDA, and protect their intellectual property.
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