Let's pretend there is a new beer in the pipeline at NBB. Say, a brettanomyces inspired collaboration with Lost Abbey. Then, everyone involved decides on the beer (recipe, brewing, etc...), and then decides on the name (let's call it– the Lost Abbey Collaboration), the next step is to design the label. A designer at NBB takes the overarching ideas about the beer, gets some input from her co-workers and considers the overall aesthetic of New Belgium. Then she gets to work designing. She puts some loop-dee-loops here and some color there and then BLAM-O! The label art is done and awesome. But we can't just throw the label on the bottle, and then fill them bottles up with beer, and then ship them out to you. Nope, we have to get the label art approved, by the TTB (the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau). This holds true for anything we do: new beers, beer updates, new labels for existing beers, etc... The TTB wants to make sure the label art fits in with all relevant federal regulations. They are there to make sure we are saying the right things, on the label, in order to correctly inform our consumer. The TTB expects labels to include our name and address, brand name of the beer, class designation of the beer, net contents of bottle, etc (you can go to their website for more information). They do good work, important work. But, as part of their label approving process, they release an image of the beer label on their website for all to see.
When the TTB releases new beer label art, before this new beer hits the liquor store shelves, it's kind of a stinker for us. This practice takes away our chance at a Big Reveal on the new, awesome label art that we have worked so hard to create. And then there's the bloggers. I love bloggers, beer bloggers especially. I mean shit, I am one. These are the people, the men and women, who preach the good and sound word of craft beer. They inform the public of everything from beer reviews, to events, to local tap lists, to news, to anything else beer related. Some beer bloggers also release the images of the new label art from the TTB's website. They take the rarely seen content from the TTB's website (lets be honest, how many people are just perusing the TTB's site?) and launch it into the blog-o-sphere. The idea is to inform their readers of new beer releases and to speak to the general happenings in the world of craft beer and beer styles. It's a scoop-able story, for sure. And, it's flattering. To see that writers and readers care enough about your brand to want to see the art (and style, and stats, and etc...) before it's released is a compliment. And we appreciate that compliment. But it still doesn't put the punch back in the Big Reveal.
So here is a couple questions for you– Is there a way for breweries to band together and get the TTB to stop publishing the label art in their approval process? And if that's not possible, is there a way for bloggers to get their story and then not re-publish the art? Is that even worth it? Probably not. But I would be interested in any opinions you folks have on this matter. Let me know on Twitter (or anywhere else, the social web is very wide).
Until next time,