FDA Menu Labeling for Beer: What You Need to Know

While it may seem complicated, FDA menu labeling for beer is really quite simple and straightforward.

While it may seem complicated, FDA menu labeling for beer is really quite simple and straightforward. Image source: Unsplash user Radovan.

The menu labeling compliance date has finally come and gone, but many restaurants and bars are still making adjustments and additions to the information on their menus—especially when it comes to calorie counts for beverages. All the hustle and bustle over calorie labeling for food items has caused some people to overlook the fact that their beverage menus also need calorie counts. And yes, that includes calorie counts for alcoholic beverages, too.

A particular area some people struggle with is FDA menu labeling for beer. This is because the FDA has highly specific rules about how to provide calorie counts for beer. What do you do when you have beer on tap? Do you need to label feature beers? Does bottled beer require calorie counts, too? These are just some of the questions I get asked, so let’s dive into the answers to clear up any confusion around labeling beer.  

FDA Menu Labeling for Beer: The Basics

Despite what a lot of people think, calorie labeling for beer is fairly intuitive and straightforward, but one would never know it after sifting through the FDA documents on the subject. So to make things a little easier to understand, I am going to break the FDA’s guidelines down into the basic things you need to know about beer labeling.

Essentially, any drink (alcoholic or otherwise) that appears on a menu board or menu should include a calorie count. Now, there are a few exceptions to this rule, which include beer on rotating taps, feature beer, and bottled beer. Let’s take a closer look at each:

  • Beer on Tap: If the beer you have on tap is listed on your beverage menu and is a permanent menu item, then you must provide calorie information for it. If, however, the beer on tap is not listed on the menu, then the FDA considers it a “food on display.” If the “food on display” is not self-serve (as it wouldn’t be with tap beer), then it is actually exempt from menu labeling requirements. If you have a rotating tap, it’s best not to list any of the tap beers on your main beverage menu so you don’t have to provide calorie counts. Writing them on your feature beverage menu is probably your best bet.
  • Feature Beers: For beer that you are going to be serving at your establishment for less than 60 days, you aren’t required to provide a calorie count. The important thing here is that you make it clear that the beer is a “feature beer” by adding it to your feature menu board or menu.
  • Bottled Beer: The FDA doesn’t actually require that each of your bottled beers is accompanied by a calorie count. Instead, you can provide a calorie range for a category of beer. For instance, if your menu lists imported beer or dark beer, you could simply provide a calorie range for each of those categories. Just make sure that the range appears next to the heading for the category with the word “Calories” or “Cal” followed by the number range (i.e. 160-200). This way, your customers will be able to see the information easily and understand why you aren’t providing an individual calorie count for each.

When adding this information to your menu, it’s important to keep in mind that calorie counts must be listed next to the beer in a font that is the same size, color, and prominence as the one used for the beer name itself.

Other Required Nutrition Information and How to Obtain it

In addition to calorie counts for the beers that are listed on your permanent beverage menu, you are required to provide two other pieces of information for your customers.  First, you must include a reference statement somewhere on your beer menu that says something along the lines of, “2,000 calories per day is general nutrition guidance, but calorie needs vary.”

Second, you need a statement on the menu saying that detailed nutrition information in written form is available upon request. This means you have to know the nutrient content of each of your beers (unless they are one of the exceptions listed above). Remember, though, that beverages with at least 6 of the required nutrient values declared as zero may use a standardized simplified format to denote nutrition information.

So, how does one obtain the calorie counts and additional nutrition information required for their beer menu? Using an online nutrition analysis software is your best bet. It really is the quickest and most affordable way to get accurate calorie counts for food and beverages. This comes in handy if you supply your beer from small, local breweries that aren’t required to provide calorie and nutrition information on their packaging.

If you choose software, like MenuCalc, with a reputable, USDA-approved nutrition database, you will likely be able to find the calorie counts and nutrition information for the beers you are looking for, or at least a reference beer with a similar nutritional profile for the specialized ones. So, you see, FDA menu labeling for beer doesn’t have to be complicated after all—as long as you remember to do it.  

MenuCalc provides user-friendly, affordable FDA-compliant nutritional analysis for all your restaurant’s needs—including your beverage menu. Contact us for more information or check out our free 15-day trial.

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