Can Scan – Beer Label Guidelines

Ever perform a can scan and wonder why you sometimes can’t find the ABV of a beer on it’s label, or even the style? It’s like you trying to find a date for Friday night. Most of the time you come up empty. Me too. I bet you were shocked when you first discovered the “craft” beer you’d been enjoying by the pool was actually owned by BMC. How can this be!? Why were you not warned? It’s mainly because the actual information required by beer label guidelines is actually pretty scant.

The TTB, or Alcohol and Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau, sets the guideline for what is supposed to be displayed on beer labels. You can read for yourself here. Specifically section §25.142 Bottles…..yeah. Well if you don’t want to slog through all those bullet points then take heart. I did the slogging for you. It’s actually pretty interesting. Shadup. It is!

Nature of the product

You don’t actually have to name the style of the beer. Just the nature of what’s actually in the can. That means you could have a white can with black letters that says “Beer” and you’d be within the guidelines. That was totally a thing, btw.

white beer can
Obviously the beer served at all bars in movies.

Place of production

This is how BMC gets around having the list their parent company name big and bold on the can. Blue Moon and Shock Top are probably the most well known offenders of this. Perhaps less well known are Magic Hat, Redhook, and Lagunitas. Craft breweries and being scooped up left and right by the Macro Beers. They may still be produced the same way they always were, but it’s misleading at best. Some people feel very strongly about their dollars not going towards massive conglomerations. Some people just want to get drunk, but I guess they aren’t exactly paying attention to the label anyways.

How much is in it

The volume of the beer in the bottle or can, +/- 0.5%. This is strictly because beer is taxed by volume. Breweries might be really cool and not mind giving you an extra ounce or two here or there, but Uncle Sam sure does. The tax man always gets his cut.

Alcohol is bad mmmkay

Well, not by itself it isn’t, but some people just get particularly boneheaded when they’ve had a few. Somewhere on the can or bottle, on the main label, or by itself, you have to have the standard issue government warning. Basically reminding women not to drink if they’re pregnant and not to drive or operate a forklift. I’m sure those disclaimers have stopped exactly zero people from doing stated activities once they read them. I know good and well I shouldn’t illegally download music. Hasn’t stopped me yet.

And that’s basically it. A few special circumstances and the odd detail or two and what you might expect to find on a beer label is often missing. Why waste the ink right? It’s basically up to the breweries discretion any extra bones they feel like throwing you. ABV and IBU’s? Maybe yes, maybe no. Hefeweizen of Russian Imperial Stout? Do you really need to know? Just drink it you pansy.

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