August 24, 2004

AUGUST 24, 2004



Attorney General Steven Rowe and twenty-seven other Attorneys General sent a letter to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) urging the TTB to quickly implement rules regulating the proper labeling and advertising of flavored malt beverages, which are known to appeal to consumers for their sweet taste traditionally associated with mixed drinks that were, until recently, only available in bars.

A recent study by TTB of the production and labeling of flavored malt beverages determined that 105 out of 114 flavored malt beverages derived more than 75% of their alcohol content from distilled spirits “flavorings” that were added to these beverages.  The study also found that the labeling of a beverage that derives most of its alcohol content from added alcohol flavors as a malt beverage is “inherently misleading” to consumers.

Flavored malt beverages are produced by stripping the taste, color and most of the alcohol from a malt beverage and then adding flavorings, including those from distilled spirits.  Several states have strict statutory definitions of distilled spirits and malt beverages.  Under these statutes, the types of beverages currently labeled as flavored malt beverages that contain distilled spirits must be marketed and taxed as distilled spirits.

“The adoption and enforcement of such a national rule is critical to ensuring that consumers are protected from deceptive labeling or advertising and that these flavored malt beverages are consistently taxed, licensed and distributed from state-to-state,” said Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe, chairman of the National Association of Attorneys General Youth Access to Alcohol Task Force.  “The line between beer and distilled spirits has been completely blurred and we’re asking TTB to adopt a bright line rule for these products” said Rowe.

More than eight years ago, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) issued ATF Ruling 96-1.  This ruling found that malt beverages may contain only alcohol that is the result of alcoholic fermentation at the brewery.  However, the ATF never initiated rulemaking specific to flavored malt beverages.  The letter sent to TTB today asks for the TTB to act immediately to establish and implement a rule governing these beverages.


To read TTB’s proposed rule, go to face="Times New Roman" size=3>

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