Monday, January 24, 2011

Death By A Thousand Paper Cuts

We placed a call a few weeks ago to the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) in order to check on the status of our Brewer’s Notice application that we filed just before Christmas.  We were told that our application was received; it appeared to be complete and is being processed by one of their analysts.  The current process time for the Brewer’s Notice is between 90 and 100 days, so we should be in a position to be approved in late March.  All of which is good news.      

The reason we mention this is that we’ve been asked a number of times why it takes so long to get a brewery opened.  The above photo is one of the reasons.  It is a 4 inch high stack of all the paperwork we have submitted so far to various parties regarding licensing and funding.  If you are planning to open a brewery my advice would be to brush up on your organizational skills and be prepared to fill out a tremendous amount of paperwork.      

Outside of the typical paperwork associated with starting a new business (applying for an employee identification number, submitting formation documents, filing for local business permits, etc.), additional applications need to be submitted and licenses need to be issued on both the federal and state levels to operate a brewery.  The federal application is, obviously, standardized regardless of where you open; however, each state has its own set of laws and regulations that apply to brewing.
The federal license is called the Brewer’s Notice and is managed through the TTB.  Their website,, is a useful resource for information on the process and details all the requirements necessary for approval of the application.  Getting Started in the Brewing Industry ( will walk you through the process and is very informative to anyone looking to open a brewery.  Most importantly the analysts that I have spoken with at the TTB regarding the process and my application have been very helpful in answering questions about the paperwork. 

What surprised us the most was the amount of supporting documentation that is required with the application.  For example, you need to submit supporting documents for all the funds used to start the brewery, including copies of checks and account statements.

Once the paperwork has been processed one of the final steps in approval (at least from what we’re told) is a phone interview between the applicant and the TTB.  Not sure exactly what that entails, but we can get back to you with that information.  We were told that the entire process takes between 90 and 100 days.    

The permitting process for the State of New Jersey is managed by the Division of Alcohol Beverage Control.  The ABC requires an Application for Manufacturer and Wholesale License be completed and approved in order to operate as a brewery in New Jersey.  As a production brewery we filed for a Limited Brewery license.  We were told that it could take up to six months to process this application. 

The ABC’s website ( has some useful information about the different licenses the state issues; however the application for these licenses is not available online for download.  Anyone interested in this application has to contact the ABC directly and a copy will be mailed out by the state.  In addition to the 12 page application, supplemental document, including source of funding, is also required for approval.

This information was based entirely on our experience with these agencies and may vary from others’ experiences going through this process.  There are a number of law firms that specialize in this process and will file both applications on behalf of the breweries, however we decided to handle all of these applications ourselves.  Of course since neither of our applications has yet to be approved, we will see if that was the way to go.  

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