TTB - The Federal Gatekeepers of Craft Breweries

TTB - The Federal Gatekeepers of Craft Breweries

Author: Beer Law HQ Staff

published Published: May 25, 2023

read time Read time: 4 mins

Federal, state, and municipal laws govern the production, sale, and distribution of alcohol. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) is the federal agency that enforces the Federal Alcohol Administration (FAA) Act. 

Alcohol advertising and labeling

  • Enforce labeling requirements
  • Prevent misleading information by the brewer/brewery
  • Ensure brewers/breweries have an exemption certificate or an approved certificate of label approval(COLA)

Production, importing and exporting, and distribution:

  • Control permits
  • Prevent unqualified people from brewing
  • Collect beer taxes
  • Protect consumers
  • Prevent unlawful or unfair activity

Before beginning your craft beer industry business, you must file an application with the TTB. Which application you submit will depend on the type of business. Before initiating the application, you must determine your business structure – sole proprietor, LLC, partnership, or corporation. Next, you will need to decide the type of business you are creating – brewery, dealer, or importer. Once you have determined these factors, you can select the appropriate application for your business. You can submit your application online or a hard copy via mail.

You must submit numerous documents with your application, including TTB forms, diagrams, and personnel questionnaires. The TTB provides an informative online tutorial detailing the required documents. If you apply online, the online wizard allows you to save your work and resume your entry.

After submitting your application, the TTB will review it for accuracy and completeness. The TTB will contact you for additional information or corrections if needed. Once your application is complete, the TTB will assign a tracking number, and a processing specialist will review your application in detail. Finally, the approving official will review your application for approval. Once approved, you will print (if submitted electronically) your approved documents or receive them from the TTB (if submitted via mail). If you have changes to your approved permit, you must file amendments through the TTB online system. These changes include brewery location, power of attorney, owners or ownership, and termination of business.

Once your application is approved, several TTB requirements exist to maintain your business. These requirements include:

       Formula approval

Approval is only required when you use non-traditional methods or ingredients. The TTB will evaluate the ingredients, assign the correct tax classification, and ensure the labels identify the product without misleading information. In addition to assessing the ingredients, the TTB will also look at production processes and ask for a product sample for lab analysis.


Your label must be approved if you ship your product out of state. You may submit your label via the Certificate of Label Approval/Exemption (COLA) online or by mail using TTB F 5100.31.

       Recordkeeping and reports

You are responsible for keeping commercial records for daily records of operations, balling and alcohol content, inventory, unsalable beer, and beer concentrate. These records must be kept for a minimum of three years. A TTB officer may request these records during business hours. You must also file operational reports and excise tax returns.

       Brewer’s bond

You must have a brewer’s bond, a guarantee to pay taxes unless exempt. For exemption qualification, read 27 CFR 25.91(e). You must acquire a new bond or a continuation certificate every four years, or you cannot continue brewing.


As with any business, you need to pay taxes. Depending on your beer excise tax liability, you can file taxes annually, quarterly, or semi-monthly.

       FAA trade practices

These trade practices ensure industry fairness and prohibit brewers or breweries from having an unfair advantage. These marketing practices include exclusive outlets, tied houses, commercial bribery, and consignment sales.

       Beer regulations and laws

Several regulations and laws govern beer production, brewers, and breweries. The Code of Federal Regulations Title 27, Part 25 addresses beer regulations, and the United States Code Chapter 51 addresses distilled spirits, wines, and beer. See the TTB website for additional laws, regulations, and guidance information.

A common question is regarding advertising approvals. Advertising materials do not require TTB approval before their use. However, the TTB does offer a free, voluntary pre-clearance for your advertising materials. Although advertising materials do not need approval, the TTB monitors advertising through the pre-clearance process, referrals and complaints, and an internal selection review. In addition, the TTB has several resources on its website, including common advertising mistakes. Another advertising resource is the Code of Federal Regulations 27 CFR 7.235, which details prohibited practices in advertising malt beverages.

Although the TTB’s website provides additional information on the beer industry, key beer topics, and common FAQs, you may have further questions about the TTB and your beer business. The attorneys at Beer Law HQ will sit with you and discuss your questions during a free consultation. We believe in partnering with brewers and breweries to help keep businesses in compliance so you can keep the taps flowing.

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