Q: What do you call spirits distilled from beer?
A: Not “Spirits Distilled from Beer.”
Every now and then we see a “Bierschnapps” or a “spirit distilled from beer.” But even though beer is the main ingredient, most of the U.S. approvals seem to avoid any reference to “beer” or “bier.” It seems that TTB is not in favor of spirits labels that refer to beer.
In the above example, Woodstone Microspirit seems to be, pretty much, just spirits distilled from beer. Even though the producer probably wanted to describe it as “bierschnapps” on the label, the main description is “Spirits Distilled from Grain and Hops.” The producer, back in 2008, set forth his frustrations here:
Beer Schnapps as a label has not been approved by the TTB for 4 months 3 tries and counting, the formula from the local microbrewery was accepted on the 2nd time through. Its been over 2 years so far and it is fighting me every step of the way. … We are now re-submitting the product with a fanciful name and not calling the product beer schnapps at all.
TTB seems to have allowed a reference to ale but not beer.
Classick is another example of a bierschnapps. I have not been able to find the label approval, but the San Francisco Chronicle discussed the product in 2002:
Bierschnaps, the liquor in question, is relatively unknown outside of its place of origin, Bavaria, Germany. It is made from beer that has been distilled into a clear, 80 proof spirit similar to premium vodka. … Even the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms hadn’t heard of the spirit, so the government officials insisted that Classick and Mirenda provide samples of German bierschnaps to prove its legitimacy. … Four hundred regulations later, in November 1999, Essential Spirits sent to the shelves its first bottle of Classick Original American Bierschnaps, which is distilled from the company’s own micro-brewed California pale ale. In April 2000 came a partnership with a major craft brewer, introducing Sierra Nevada Pale Ale bierschnaps.
TTB has liberalized in many areas and yet various and sundry pockets of great strictness remain.