28 Proof and Not Beer, Wine or Spirit

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It looks like moonshine.

But it’s not spirits. It’s not even beer or wine, and yet it is 28 proof.

I stumbled on Great America “Carolina Clear” at a gas station in Bardstown, Kentucky, of all places. It was just a couple miles from Jim Beam and Four Roses. I would have assumed the heart of Bourbon Country is roughly the last place for a product such as this to thrive. And yet, the guy loitering and smoking out front advised it is an excellent product and will get one messed up almost as good as the illegal stuff. The display had about 40 jars of the product, in various flavors, a couple days ago. When I went back today, only one jar was left.

s2And so, if it’s not beer, wine or spirits — what could it possibly be? It took me a few minutes, and a return trip, to sort it out, because this is indeed an unusual product.

The front label describes it as Carolina Clear, Malt Specialty. There is no mention of beer, and there is no TTB label approval, because the product apparently lacks the hops and malted barley required to fit within the U.S. definition of a “malt beverage.”

The back label explains, in the FDA-style ingredient list, that the product only has three ingredients. I don’t think anyone will be surprised, at least at this point, that those ingredients are not the ones elevated in the Reinheitsgebot (the German Beer Purity Law of 1487, allowing beer to be made with water, barley and hops only). The North Carolina-made “malt specistoutalty,” selling for $5.99 a jar, is made only with high fructose corn syrup, distilled water, and sodium benzoate. It is tough to imagine an alcohol beverage that could be produced at lower cost.

The product can’t fit within TTB’s label rules for beer-type beverages due to the lack of hops and barley. It falls outside the spirits labeling rules due to the lack of distillation. It is harder to see why the product falls outside TTB’s wine labeling rules, because it is like saké, at least in the sense that is also fermented from grain, and the federal government treats saké as wine, for labeling purposes. It is clear that Great America views the product as outside the TTB labeling rules because:

  1. TTB would have required a label approval. I see one label approval for this company, but none that match this product.
  2. TTB might have eventually said it looks too much like a spirits product, and might have required a clearer and more prominent statement of identity on the front label.
  3. The product seems to do a decent job of complying with the FDA food labeling rules (as opposed to the somewhat different TTB labeling rules). The serving size, however, at 3 ounces, seems very small (and the 7.8 servings per container seems absurdly large). This Joose-brand flavored malt beverage has a similar net contents and alcohol content, and yet is sold in single-serve cans.

Notwithstanding these distinctions, the federal taxes and permit requirements would be the same for this product as compared to typical beer.

This product is put out by Stout Brewing Company and also comes in common moonshine flavors such as peach, apple pie, and strawberry. Stout also markets similar products in 3 ounce tubes (as in the image immediately above).

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13 Responses to “28 Proof and Not Beer, Wine or Spirit”

  1. January 21st, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    Fire Flask Fires Back at Fireball – spirits.law says:

    […] has a lot worth protecting, and umm the products do look quite a lot alike to this casual observer. Stout tends to say the products are not alike (only one has a glass bottle, a devil, is beer-like, is […]

  2. March 11th, 2016 at 5:46 pm

    Slartibartfast says:

    I did the math for you. The actual serving size should be 4.3oz, so you actually get about 5.5 servings per container. This is based on alcohol content of course. They probably decrease the serving sizes just to make the calories seem less. Alcoholic beverages rarely contain nutrition facts, so they don’t have to hide the calories in small serving sizes like food manufacturers.

    Basically at $5 or $6 per bottle, and this being equivalent to about 5 or 6 macro beers, this is a darn good deal.

  3. June 20th, 2016 at 7:00 am

    Bill says:

    Whelp i had a try of the Carolina Clear and it was purty dang good but not what I thought it was! I will still buy it though, so that say something! 5 bucks is a real good deal! I will definitely try the other flavors!

  4. September 30th, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    Kevin says:

    I saw this product at Walmart I’d all places, the packaging cought my eye, at first I thought it was moonshine. Of course that drew me in. And then I saw the price tag. I believe I paid 4.44 for it. I like it and definitely will be back for more, if for no other reason other than drinking out of a Mason jar somehow feels a little bad. Lol

  5. October 25th, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    justin says:

    I’m waiting on my girls car to be done at the shop and it caught my eye since it was in a mason jar so I tried the Apple pie and was very satisfied with the price I wish the alcohol content was higher… Lol

  6. October 25th, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    Kristina Miles says:

    Can you remember where you got it from. I have asked the company and they keep giving me places that sell it. Then I call them and ask and they say we don’t sell it.

  7. February 5th, 2017 at 9:47 pm

    Billy Joimyer says:

    HEB has it

  8. December 25th, 2016 at 10:14 pm

    Cindy priddy says:

    Does the Apple pie one have persimmons in it??

  9. January 1st, 2017 at 1:01 am

    ssgt patriot says:

    When it first came to town, I bought a jar, and was amazed at what a good drink…it would sell out so fast I started buying at least 4 jars to last me a week, and it started selling so fast, they couldn’t keep it on the shelf at any of the places…the distributers in this area couldn’t get it fast enough…Wal-mart was selling for $5.00 a jar and the rest were in a few cents…great beverage ice cold…

  10. June 3rd, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    Cec Jon says:

    I have been told you are Not making the peach or any other flavor except lemonade or is their way of not buying from you.

    Peach is very good, especially is punch.

    Please favor me with an answer.

    Cec Jones

  11. June 14th, 2017 at 8:38 pm

    Dave says:

    First time I tried it not bad I got the strawberry because they didn’t have clear I went by the clear and try that next it’s not like real moonshine but for 5 bucks it’s not a bad deal

  12. October 20th, 2017 at 10:24 pm

    Ed says:

    The apple pie is awesome. I just got the peach tonight to try it out. Nice buzz. Nice price. Enough said. And yes, the label caught my eye. Also the jar is awesome. I use them after i drink the “moonshine.” hahaha.

  13. December 24th, 2017 at 6:07 am

    Lester Jackson says:

    I would like to find it in in Albany Georgia

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