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Legal & Finance

               inventory control and create an accountability tool   thought out may create more harm than good.
               for you to use with all of your downstream part-
               ners.                                                             Finding the Right Date

                 Finally, it’s an extra layer of transparency for your     Back in 1996, Anheuser-Busch launched a market-
               customer, as well as an educational tool, allowing   ing campaign in a bid to show that their beer was
               you to provide them with the best–and freshest–      the freshest on the market and coined the term,
               possible product, and the best possible customer     “Born on date.” It has become a ubiquitous term
               experience.                                          in the beer industry, regardless of the fact that
                                                                    the date was dropped from all Budweiser labeling
                                 How to Code                        in 2015 in favor of a “Freshest before” date. Just
                                                                    because the biggest brewery in the land does it
                 For better or worse, there is no standard way or   hardly makes it an industry standard, however. It’s
               best practice guide to follow for date coding your   not even standard across their entire company.
               beer. From a practical, legal standpoint, as long as
               there is a code on your package that is traceable      Megan Lagesse of Anheuser-Busch InBev’s “The
               to a batch at your particular factory and you can    Higher End” craft division notes, “Some of [our]
               track that batch back to its component ingredients,   partners (Goose Island, [and] Wicked Weed) are
               you’ve complied with FDA standards. However, eso-    doing dual date coding (brewed on and best by)
               teric or confusing coding can be a problem in the    but everyone isn’t because not all of our produc-
               marketplace and lacks customer transparency.         tion equipment has the capability to dual date
                                                                    code,” she says. “So, we chose best by date cod-
                 Many food and beverage manufacturers use a         ing [for] broader consistency, because everyone
               Julian Code to signify what date an item was man-    understands an expiration date but not everyone is
               ufactured or packaged. Julian Code is a system       educated enough to know IPAs should be drank as
               designed by the U.S. Military to easily date MREs    fresh as possible, but you can age wild beers and
               and is easy to track and assign with simple pro-     stouts.”
               gramming tasks. It uses the last digit of the year
               in question followed by the day of the year.  (For     Jeremy Danner, Ambassador Brewer of Kansas
               example, a product dated with December 15, 2018      City’s Boulevard Brewing, notes proudly that
               the Julian Code would be 8349.  December 15 is       Boulevard prints, “both packaged on and best by
               the 349th day of the year in non-leap-years.)  While  dates on all cans, bottles, keg rings and exterior
               this provides a standard format that is unique per   boxes. If you’re going to only print one,” he says, “it
               day and easily traceable on a package and within a   should be the packaged-on date, as thoughts vary
               database, it is not easy for a customer to read and   when it comes to shelf life.”
               gain information from. An eager beer drinker look-
               ing for a fresh IPA would have no way of knowing       That shelf life–the basis of rationale behind a best
               what information was being presented to them and  by date–can be difficult, if not impossible, for a
               might end up looking elsewhere.                      small brewery to determine. While larger brewer-
                                                                    ies have the benefit of tasting panels, labs, and a
                 However, a standard date might not be the easy     vast number of data points, many small breweries
               go-to answer that it seems. A report by the Natural   get by with a microscope and a handful of jack-
               Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Harvard         of-all-trade production team members. In small
               University’s Food and Law Policy Clinic (The Dating   breweries, with limited, sometimes unique, pro-
               Game, 2013, NRDC) notes that confusing date label-   duction batches, shelf life is often the product of
               ing leads to a tremendous amount of food waste       an educated guess, rather than a robust statistically
               in the United States as “open dates can come in a    significant tasting panel. Even pressure from a dis-
               dizzying variety of forms, none of which are strictly   tributor can affect what date goes onto a package
               defined or regulated on a federal level” and that    and in many cases a brewer will resort to relying
               “although most date labels are intended as indi-     on a packaged-on date and using phrases like, “Do
               cators of freshness and quality, many consumers      not age” or “Best when its fresh” in lieu of a best by
               mistakenly believe they are indicators of safety.”   date.
               Putting information on your package that isn’t well

               6     June - July  2021     BEVERAGE MASTER

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