Space Oddities, State and Federal
CASE #1: North Carolina
Our best selling beer is Space Cake Double IPA. The Federal Government approved this label.
We opened up distribution in North Carolina toward the end of 2016. While the local licensing folks are a pleasure to work with, we ran into a problem with the Space Cake label. They do not allow beer labels that are too “cartoonish”, and that might appeal to children. Flummoxed, we took another tack, and sent in the label below, which they approved.
While the text may suggest the censored label is salacious, we hope beer customers in NC will look up the real artwork and see Miracle Mike in all of his goofy, innocent, and inoffensive glory.
We are planning a canned project for this year, originally called Space Cookie. The beer is a hoppy pale ale with a similar hop profile to Space Cake and the label depicts a spaceship shaped like a clown shoe fighting its way through an asteroid field composed of giant, pink frosted space cookies.
The TTB, the branch of the government that examines labels, rejected Space Cookie because “it’s a reference to pot.” Apparently, Space Cookie is the name of a strain of marijuana. Who knew? We wrote to the TTB and explained to them that we had no idea about the marijuana reference, and that “Space Cookies” referred to an odd encounter we had with some dangerous pastries, once upon a time, while exploring deeply strange pockets of the galaxy.
They didn’t budge. Still rejected.
But the TTB approved the following label: Baked Goods.
We put a tremendous amount of time and energy into each concept. Michael Axt, our full time label designer, despite working at breakneck speeds like an artist version of Ricky Bobby at the end of Talladega Nights, can never get ahead of the work we keep throwing at him. When a project gets a rejection from a state or federal agency our whole team feels like we’ve taken, collectively, a punch to the stomach from a heavyweight. The extra delays cost us time, stress, and often force us to change our production calendar.
What can you do? We pivot. We try to use creativity and humor as a remedy. Amazingly, this usually works.
In the year ahead we will be designing more than a dozen new labels. Some are more on the edge than others. We need to consider if the names and imagery will receive Federal and State approvals. Such as, we are thinking of making a 20% Strong Ale featuring a yoga class filled with students wearing Clown Shoes while doing Irish Yoga called: Menace to Sobriety.
That last beer concept is a joke, but we really did want to make a high ABV beer a few years ago and name it Menace to Sobriety. The now retired director of the TTB, Mr. Battle Martin, personally responded to a preemptive email from us asking if the name stood a chance of being approved. His response? One word. No. We knew this would be the case because, “you cannot suggest in a fanciful name that a product will cause excess intoxication or harm,” but liked the name enough to give it a shot.
Stay posted. If a case #3 emerges we’ll fill you in.