Will California Outlaw Coffee Stout with Bill AB 1598?

Normally, I only post articles about beer reviews, beer events, home brewing, and cooking with beer but something a little more political and beer related recently caught my attention. I was reading a post by @DevilsCanyon that linked to California bill AB 1598, which outlaws malt beverages that contain caffeine. I’m not lawyer or legislator but there seems to be some issues with this bill that could lead to outlawing coffee stout.

The bill language and some reference links can be found at the following locations:

Below are the questions and concerns that I have about the bill:

  • Does it or does it not outlaw beverages such as coffee stouts?
    • This is my biggest concern. Will it prevent me from home brewing my own coffee porter or stouts?
    • There seems to be a section that exempts beer such as stout, porter, ale, lager, etc. but to me it is not that obvious.
  • It leaves the terminology for “stimulants” open ended.
    • I interpret (or misinterpret) a situation where somebody like Uncommon Brewers might have to cease producing some of there beer if somebody considers anise or licorice or something else a stimulant, despite the fact that they have received FDA approval for their beer.
  • It makes a bunch of assertions to justify the existence of this bill, some of which are hokey, false, or without proof.
    • For instance, according to the bill, social networking sites, like Facebook and MySapce, are used to market to, specifically, young people. I guess the California legislature knows the Facebook demographics better than Facebook. The truth is the 18-25 demographic on Facebook is shrinking percentage-wise. In March 2009, it was down to 35%.
    • Does caffeine and alcohol really impair you ability to know how drunk you are? Maybe there is a study for this but I’d like to read the study before it gets jammed into law as fact.
  • The law outlaws caffeinated malt beverages but doesn’t touch Red Bull vodka. This is also a slippery slope, will Red Bull vodka be next? What about rum and coke?
  • I was looking for Title 26 Section 5092 for the definition of “brewer” but could not find it and it seems that 5052(d) has replaced 5092 but I’m not certain.

What do you think of this AB 1598? Does it outlaw coffee stout and porter?

Update: March 9, 2010 9:20am

Mario from Brewed For Thought contacted and received a response from Tom McCormick of the California Small Brewers Assoc. which indicates that there should be no concern, yet, about this bill.

Currently we are in direct talks with the bill’s author, Assemblyman Jim Beall (Santa Clara). We expect to amend this bill fully so that it has no impact on craft brewers. If that changes for any reason, we will certainly look at a letter writing campaign etc.
Thanks for your support!

Tom McCormick
Executive Director
California Small Brewers Assoc.

Personally, I won’t be unconcerned until the bill is dead. This bill has a slippery slope down which we should not slide.

I also found a few more links this morning:

Update: March 9, 2010 at 11:22am

Read the comments below. One read received a response from Jim Beall’s office as follows:

The Assemblymember is working with the craftsbrewer association to attempt to clarify the legislation. The intent of AB 1598 is to enforce federal legislation that prohibits alcoholic beverages that are spiked with stimulants.


Frances Grammer

Senior Field Representative

If this is the case and the reason is to comply with federal regulations, then why is there all of that mumbo-jumbo in sections (a) through (j) of the bill? This bill needs a lot of work. They need to remove (a) through (j) and simply state it that the intent of this bill is to comply with the enforcement of federal regulations.

But now I ask, if there is already a federal regulation, why does California need a law on the books?

Update: March 10, 2010

FDA Investigation

I received a message on Twitter from @beerwars that this issue is similar to an ongoing investigation by the FDA. Here’s some details about that investigation: http://www.lawyersandsettlements.com/blog/whats-in-your-kids-favorite-drink-big-brother-wants-to-know-01896.html

Jim Beall, California Assembly District 24

This bill was introduced by Jim Beall from District 24, which covers Santa Clara and parts of San Jose. Here is some information about Jim Beall:

California Assembly Committee on Governmental Organization

This bill is currently in committee with the Committee on Governmental Organization. If your representative is on this list, then please send them an email with your displeasure about this bill. If you representative is not on the list, then send an email to Jim Beall or the committee chair, Joe Coto, District 23.

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About David Jensen

David is a craft beer and photography enthusiast.
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11 Responses to Will California Outlaw Coffee Stout with Bill AB 1598?

  1. Sean says:

    Well, let me just say that the bill is at best bad legislation for many of the reasons you mentioned. It just screams out “Won’t somebody think of the children?!!”

    That said, with respect to coffee in beer, I think beer is safe. Here’s why:

    AB1598 attempts to define what a “caffeinated malt beverage” is. In doing so, it goes as far as to exempt certain products which are specified under federal code:

    For purposes of this section, “caffeinated malt beverage”
    means a beverage for which the producer is required to file a formula
    for approval with the United States Alcohol and Tobacco Trade and
    Tax Bureau pursuant to Section 25.55 of Title 27 of the Code of
    Federal Regulations

    From Section 25.55 of Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations:

    (a) For what fermented products must a formula be filed? You must
    file a formula for approval by TTB if you intend to produce:
    (1) Any fermented product that will be treated by any processing,
    filtration, or other method of manufacture that is not generally
    recognized as a traditional process in the production of a fermented
    beverage designated as “beer,” “ale,” “porter,” “stout,”
    “lager,” or “malt liquor.””

    Therefore, it would seem beer is safe unless you’re doing something that compels you to report your “formula” to the federal government. Yet, as you note, there is this notion of “traditional brewing process.” Coffee in beer seems like a relatively new thing, but it isn’t like the brewing process is at all altered to incorporate the coffee. It seems like the authors of the bill are trying to exempt beer, but there’s a lot of room for interpretation. Given the recent ATC crackdown on infusions (http://mobile.sfist.com/2010/02/26/alcoholic_beverage_control_crackdow.php) I’d prefer to just see the bill die a quick death in the assembly. All it would take is some federal

    Whatever the intention it’s just another attempt at prohibition.

  2. @stelis says:

    I’m pretty optimistic this bill is going nowhere.

    Like all laws, they have to be enforced to have teeth. To enforce, the Governor through his cabinet, must adopt regulation. It’s the regulation that will define what drinks are covered/not covered under this law.

    The legislature and the governor is not going to let California’s craft brewing industry go out the window, along with its jobs and tourism.

    And if this bill is like the 90% of other bills that get introduced into the legislature, it’s going to die in committee. If you look at the history of this bill, it’s been in committee since Jan 14.

    This bill was brought up by The Marin Institute, an anti-alcohol group. Nobody takes them seriously. Groups like these do this sort of thing for publicity, never expecting it get anywhere. The publicity is what causes people to donate money to them. Most likely Marin donated some money to Beall’s campaign, and Beall followed through with this request.

    If this was going anywhere, it’d be all over the news.

  3. @brewhiker says:

    Got an email response to Jim Beall asking for clarification on this bill and its impact on beer:

    Mr. Brewhiker,

    The Assemblymember is working with the craftsbrewer association to attempt to clarify the legislation. The intent of AB 1598 is to enforce federal legislation that prohibits alcoholic beverages that are spiked with stimulants.


    Frances Grammer

    Senior Field Representative

  4. Sean says:

    I reached out to Frances Grammer for clarification. Here’s what I got back, FWIW:



    I believe I misspoke; the need for the legislation was presented after an agreement was made with attorneys general from 25 states including California. Miller-Coors agreed to remove stimulants from their energy drink Sparks and Anheuser-Busch Cos. agreed to do the same with its Tilt and Bud Extra brews.

    Unfortunately, two beverages made by a Chicago company, Four Loko and Four Maxed, and a Los Angeles company’s drink, Joose, have become the two top brands in the caffeinated alcohol category since Sparks was reformulated.



  5. Benia says:

    The government needs to stop making every last thing illegal. Sure, poison is not cool to serve, but with caffeine and alcohol, let the consumers regulate themselves.

    I love my coffee stouts!


  6. Will says:

    It is absurd that adding coffee to a beer. Could be considered the same as all the chemical ingredients that were capable of eating thru aluminum cans in sparks(yes, when first released it happened! Entire shipments recalled)!

    Please do not be passive on this issue! Just because it is not all over the news is not a fair reason to believe this issue won’t pass! Do what you can to make this appear in every media possible. Every vote on this counts!

  7. A law to outlaw pre-packaged beverages containing stimulants and alcohol would be pointless.

    Stimulant use (caffeine, guarana, taurine, ginseng, etc) paired with alcohol is incredibly common. These readily available malt beverages may be easy to point to, but the fact is that anyone can mix Red Bull and vodka. Drinking coffee before/while/after drinking alcohol would have the same effect.

    So the law wants to ban purple paint but continue to sell red and blue. It’s just stupid.

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