Jester King Craft Brewery

Mad Meg Around the Globe, Boxer's Revenge in IL; Texas Next!

As we’ve talked about on a variety of other occasions, the process of getting labels approved in Texas is a bit more involved, and significantly more time consuming than it is is most of the rest of the country. Apart from a few specific exceptions, which we won’t get into here, all alcoholic beverages that are to be sold in the United States must receive a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) from the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). In many states, a federal COLA is all that’s required for a licensed brewery, winery, distillery, or importer to register and start shipping any new products that they might wish to offer, but a few, including Texas, have additional requirements that can slow down the process significantly. In addition to the $25 label registration fee, which is fairly standard, Texas requires that the alcohol content of all malt beverages (but not wines or distilled spirits) to be tested either by the state laboratory, or by some other independent lab. This means that, whereas federal COLAs can be obtained as soon as the label design has been completed, well before a given product has even been made, malt beverages can’t be submitted for approval in Texas until the beer in question has been brewed and is ready to go.

For this reason, every beer, regardless of where it’s made, will always be legal to sell elsewhere before it’s legal to sell in Texas, and Texas breweries are often left in the position of sitting on finished beer, while they’re waiting for the labels to be approved.

We received federal label approval for Mad Meg on February 19 at which point we sent bottles off for testing. Once we confirmed the the actual ABV% matched what would be stated on the labels, we sent them off to print, along with Boxer’s Revenge, which had already been tested for alcohol content and received its current COLA back in January. At that time, we also submitted both labels to the TABC for approval. Since both beers had already been tested for ABV, and since, following our lawsuit, Texas no longer has specific language requirements or prohibitions that are different from those of the federal government, TABC approval should have been a mere formality at that stage, but unfortunately, due to the backlog of new labels that they’ve been registering over the last few months, it’s a formality that’s now taking 3 weeks or more to complete. In the meantime, we have two options: either we sit on beer that’s fully labeled, ready to ship, and legal throughout most of the rest of the US, as well as for export, and await the OK from the TABC to start selling it in Texas, or we sell it somewhere else.

As those of you who have been to visit the brewery already know, we’re rather tight on space at Jester King, especially in our barrel room, where we also store all of our finished beer. When that room is full, we can’t package beer that’s ready, in the tanks, which, in turn, also means that we can’t brew more. Mad Meg is now a regular production beer for us, and by the time we received the labels, we not only had the first batch ready, but also a second that was only a few weeks behind. Having to choose between sending beer that we couldn’t sell in Texas out of state and halting production entirely while we waited for the OK to sell it in state, we opted for the former. Not long after we sent shipments to the IL, CA, and Europe, we did finally receive approval from the TABC, but by then, the die had already been cast. Not to worry, though, we have a huge batch of Mad Meg that should start hitting stores throughout the state the week of 4/16, and as is often the case with our beers, while we were very happy with the initial batch, we made a few minor tweaks to the second, which we feel will make it even better.

The situation with Boxer’s Revenge is a little different. This is a beer that we can only produce in exceedingly small quantities right now, so apart from 2 cases that went to IL, we decided not to ship what little we had out of state. People of Texas, the rest is all yours, as soon as our distributor figures out the fairest way to divvy up the 100 or so cases that they’ve got. You may see some pop up here and there in and around Austin as soon as this weekend, with the remainder making its way out to market over the course of the next couple of weeks.

We also opted not to ship any Beer Geek Rodeo out of state, and will be releasing it (of which we also don’t have much) as soon as the TABC gives us the OK. We don’t know exactly when that will be, but we’re hoping it’s soon, not only so that we can get it to those who might want it, but also so that we can clear some space in the brewery and make some more beer!