For breweries, there's a lot of red tape. All that time-consuming government paperwork is bad for them, but it's good for us.
While much of the regulation of alcohol is left to the states, the federal government is in charge of interstate commerce. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, known in the industry as the TTB, does the work that pertains to why we're here. Brewers, wineries and distillers seeking to sell across state lines must have labels approved by the TTB for a host of criteria including origin, health warning statement and other nuts and bolts. Many businesses that only sell in-state secure TTB approval for labels anyway as a way of helping a product's packaging stand up to future growth.
Why beer aficionados might care about this is that approved labels become public record, and they often reveal new beers or label redesigns before the breweries themselves are willing to break that news.
There is a key caveat with label approvals: They're only that. A beer that secures label approval may not be made, though if a brewery goes through the cost and effort to get a label approved, it's usually a safe bet that the beer's well beyond the concept stage.
Dozens of beer and fermented malt beverage labels were approved for permitted businesses in Wisconsin this summer. Here's a sampling of them from all corners of the state — most of which have not yet or have only recently been released.
Pecatonica Beer Co. of Gratiot is making its new Muskelager -- a golden lager with session strength at just 4.2 percent ABV -- at Potosi Brewing Co. When Pecatonica began making beer in 2013, it was doing so at Minhas Craft Brewery in Monroe.
Fermentorium Covered Bridge
The Fermentorium in Cedarburg, which has been self-distributing to a few retailers and bars in Madison for several months, recently signed with statewide distributor Breakthru Beverage, so Madison figures to be seeing more Fermentorium beer in coming weeks and months. One of those could be Covered Bridge golden ale, the label for which was approved June 22.
Leinenkugel's Snowdrift Vanilla Porter
Leinenkugel's recently overhauled its labels, requiring new rounds of approvals. The winter seasonal Snowdrift Vanilla Porter returns this year as a standalone beer in six-packs. It'll also continue to be available in the brewery's Winter Explorer Pack along with Creamy Dark, Pomegranate Shandy and Northwoods Lager. The Snowdrift label was approved June 22.
3 Sheeps Nitrajoe
Nitrajoe is a new beer from 3 Sheeps Brewing, which recently (and extensively)
overhauled its packaging and its overall brand. Nitrajoe falls into the new Nitro Series, and is a coffee stout using nitrogen bubbles instead of carbon dioxide for a smoother, softer mouthfeel. One of several new 3 Sheeps labels approved this summer, Nitrajoe got the TTB nod on June 25.
3 Sheeps Paid Time Off
With 3 Sheeps Brewing's rebrand, many of its familiar specialty beers are debuting in new packaging now or soon. That's the case with Paid Time Off, an imperial stout loaded up with coconut, cacao and walnuts. The beer previously was available in 22-ounce bombers but on Aug. 4 a label was approved for a 12-ounce bottle that will come in four-packs, the new format for 3 Sheeps' specialty beers.
3 Sheeps Veneration
The 12-ounce label for Veneration, a massive (13.2 percent ABV!) Belgian quadrupel-style ale aged in rye whiskey barrels, is another new look for a 3 Sheeps Brewing specialty beer. It was approved Aug. 16.
3 Sheeps Roll Out the Barrel
Another new format and label for a 3 Sheeps Brewing specialty beer: Roll Out the Barrel, a big Belgian golden ale aged in chardonnay barrels. It was approved Aug. 4.
The Explorium Brewpub opened in Greendale in 2016 but until this month had yet to release any of its beer in bottles or cans. This label, for a 750-milliliter bottle of its Tiramisu Imperial Stout, is part of a series of releases that are the brewery's first packaged offerings. The first beer, S'mores Porter, went on sale at the brewpub at Southridge Mall on Aug. 26. The Tiramisu label was approved Aug. 18.
Pearl Street 17-Up
Pearl Street Brewery in La Crosse is marking its 17th anniversary with a lemon-lime gose called 17-Up that evokes some imagery of a softer, also sparkling lemon-lime beverage. Its label was approved July 18.
Campanology Buche de Noel Stout
This label for Campanology Brewing's Every Time Buche de Noel Stout was approved July 26. Campanology is a house brand of Trader Joe's, and while
neither party acknowledges the arrangement, the label approval indicates it's brewed at Octopi Brewing in Waunakee. Buche de Noel is a holiday dessert also known as a yule log, and Campanology's beer take on it is brewed with coffee and cocoa nibs.
How does Terrapin Brewing, a Georgia brewer that does not currently distribute beer to Wisconsin, end up here, with a label for Hopsecutioner IPA approved June 28? The company has been majority-owned by MillerCoors since July 2016, and the label approval lists the address of MillerCoors' 10th Street Brewery in Milwaukee. A Terrapin rep said the brewery is tapping the 10th Street Brewery to keep beer flowing as its usual brewery is shut down for new equipment.
Lakefront My Turn Michael
Lakefront Brewery's outstanding My Turn series -- in which employees from all functions of the brewery develop a recipe for production and release -- hits its 24th iteration with Michael, a stout brewed with black tea and chai spices. The label was approved July 11.
Oliphant Honees Honees
Oliphant Brewing, of Somerset, is not shy about getting weird with its names or the labels of its beers. Honees Honees, a tallboy label for which was approved June 27, is a honey ale said to have a peanut butter flavor.
1840 Brewing Biere de Garde
Biere de Garde, a funky French ale, is one of the first three beers from 1840 Brewing, which
opened in Milwaukee's Bay View neighborhood on Aug. 12. This label, for a 750-milliliter bottle, was approved July 27. The two others approved -- Ole, a margarita-flavored gose, and Little Daisies, a mixed-fermentation, wine barrel-aged saison -- also were approved in late July.
While new beers from craft breweries and fermented malt beverages made at the state's large contract breweries make up the bulk of Wisconsin label approvals, there's also new iterations of the state's biggest macro brewers, too. This Miller Lite label approved Aug. 18 includes "Puerto Rico" in the corner.
MobCraft Beer -- born in Madison, now in Milwaukee -- crowdsources many of its recipes and on Aug. 14 won approval for a label for Caplan's, a bourbon barrel vanilla stout. The label indicates the recipe was submitted by James Caplan of Sacramento, California, and a portion of proceeds will be donated to Disabled American Veterans.
MobCraft Screwdriver Hefe
On Aug. 3 MobCraft Beer won approval for Screwdriver Hefe, an imperial German-style wheat beer brewed with grains of paradise and orange juice. It's another crowdsourced offering from MobCraft, this recipe submitted by Andy Wendt of St. Francis.
Lakefront Barrel Aged Dopplebock
Lakefront Brewery of Milwaukee gave its barrel-aged series a new look this year, and it looks like a new beer is joining it soon, too: a doppelbock aged in bourbon barrels. The label was approved Aug. 16.
Leinenkugel's Pomegranate Shandy
Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing -- based in Chippewa Falls but tied into Miller Brewing and its corporate parent MillerCoors -- is extending its now flagship line of fruited wheat beers again. This time the iteration is Pomegranate Shandy, the label for which was approved June 22.
Stillmank Brewing of Green Bay no longer distributes in the Madison area, but it's humming along in its home market of northeastern Wisconsin. It was approved for a slew of new labels this summer, including Oktoberfest, featuring the German celebration's classic white-and-blue pattern, on Aug. 9.
Stillmank Awesome Sauce
Stillmank's awesomely named Awesome Sauce ale features Montmorency cherries and apple cider juice. The label was approved Aug. 10.
Stillmank Barrel Aged Porter
Stillmank takes a sleek, sophisticated approach to the label for Barrel Aged Porter, approved Aug. 10. The base beer is a version of the brewery's award-winning Perky Porter, without the coffee. That 2018 date in the corner is a placeholder that can be changed with out re-approval; the beer was actually released last week.
Miller High Life
Milwaukee's Miller Brewing has developed a special 750-milliliter collector's bottle for Miller High Life featuring a rendering of its iconic "girl in the moon" logo. The label was approved June 2.
Benjamin Beer Belle City Blonde
If this label approval comes to pass, tallboys from Belle City Blonde would be the first canned offering from Benjamin Beer Co. in Racine. The label was approved Aug. 18.