Barrel-aging or conditioning craft beer in barrels from wineries or distilleries? TTB reminds brewers not to accept barrels containing discernible amounts of wine or spirits.

With the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild’s Festival of Wood & Barrel-Aged Beer this weekend – humbly, the Nation’s premier barrel aged specific event – the admonishments of a recent TTB Newsletter regarding barrels is important.

The Newsletter reminding brewers of the restrictions on accepting wine or spirits barrels or staves or woodchips or spirals from barrels that contain any discernible quantity of wine or liquor from the winery or distillery which were included in TTB Ruling 2015-1 could not be more timely.

The applicable parts of the ruling are below and bear reading. In short – a craft brewer cannot claim they barrel-aged a beer if woodchips were used rather than barrels; a craft brewer cannot utilize woodchips infused with distilled spirits or wine without obtaining formula approval; formula approval is not required for aging or conditioning craft beer with barrels or woodchips or staves or spirals if they contain no discernible quantities of wine or spirits; utilizing barrel or stave or woodchip aging to add wine or distilled spirits to your beer indirectly is improper and may require a tax classification change.

TTB has determined that the process of aging beer in barrels(or with woodchips, staves,or spirals from barrels) that were previously used in the production or storage of wine or distilled spirits is a traditional process and thus will no longer require a formula.  Similarly, the process of aging beer with woodchips that were previously used in the production of wine or distilled spirits is a traditional process that will no longer require a formula. Please note that this exemption from the formula requirement does not apply to the use of woodchips that have been soaked or infused with distilled spirits or wine for the sole purpose of use in the production of beer.

One significant reason for requiring a formula for these processes in the past was to enable TTB to review the process used by the brewer to ensure that it was not being used to indirectly add distilled spirits or wine to the beer during the aging process, thus changing the tax classification or labeling of the product.  When proprietors of distilled spirits plants and bonded wine cellars sell used barrels, wood chips, or parts of a barrel to brewers or to the general public, they are obligated under the IRC to ensure that they are not thereby removing non taxpaid wine or spirits from their premises.  Accordingly, the barrels should be completely empty and the barrels, woodchips, and parts of the barrel should not contain any discernible quantity of distilled spirits or wine. TTB reminds brewers that TTB regulations do not authorize a brewer to use wine or distilled spirits in the production of beer.  See 27 CFR 7.11and 27 CFR 25.15. Brewers must ensure that the use of barrels, woodchips, and part of barrels that were previously used in the production or storage of wine or distilled spirits will not add any discernible quantity of wine or distilled spirits to the beer.  

Industry members are reminded that it is a violation of the regulations to make misleading claims on labels or in advertisements that suggest that a malt beverage contains distilled spirits or wine. See 27 CFR 7.29(a)(7)and 27 CFR 7.54(a)(8).  TTB also considers it misleading to claim that products were aged in barrels if they were aged using woodchips rather than barrels.

Ashley Brandt

Hi there! I’m happy you’re here. My name is Ashley Brandt and I’m an attorney in Chicago representing clients in the Food and Beverage, Advertising, Media, and Real Estate industries. A while back I kept getting calls and questions from industry professionals and attorneys looking for advice and information on a fun and unique area of law that I’m lucky enough to practice in. These calls represented a serious lack of, and need for, some answers, news, and information on the legal aspects of marketing and media. I've got this deep seeded belief that information should be readily available and that the greatest benefit from the information age is open access to knowledge... so ... this blog seemed like the best way to accomplish that. I enjoy being an attorney and it’s given me some amazing opportunities, wonderful experiences, and an appreciation and love for this work. I live in Chicago and work at an exceptional law firm, Goldstein & McClintock, with some truly brilliant people. Feel free to contact me at any time with any issues, comments, concerns… frankly, after reading this far, I hope you take the time to at least let me know what you think about the blog and how I can make it a better resource.

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