RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — There's a little less bureaucratic red tape standing between you and your next brew.
Federal officials have simplified parts of the approval process for bringing new beers to market, something that in the past could take months. The changes mean consumers could see new brews showing up in stores and bars more quickly, while brewers will enjoy greater flexibility to experiment with ingredients and production techniques.
"It's great news in terms of streamlining for the brewer," says Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association, a Colorado-based trade group for the majority of the 2,800 brewing companies in the United States. "It does give (brewers) greater freedom and chances are beer drinkers will have more options of beers available to them."
The rule change, announced last week by the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, greenlights the use of more than 30 ingredients — including honey, certain fruits, spices and coffee — in beer recipes without getting formula approval. It also says producers no longer need prior approval to age beer in barrels previously used to store wine and distilled spirits, a popular trend among the growing craft beer market.
Formula approvals from the agency have averaged about 70 days and are needed before brewers get their labels approved, which in itself can take more than 15 days, according to the agency.
The move acknowledges the changes to beer since the days when American brews weren't exactly known for their diversity. It "better reflects today's reality, the use of common, if atypical, ingredients in beer," says Gary Fish, founder of Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon, the nation's sixth-largest craft brewery.