Main Street Fights Through Red Tape to Get Popular Beer to Shelves

main street brewing

Despite some headaches along the way, Main Street Brewing Company has finally gotten its most popular beer on shelves.

After debuting five other styles in cans on Nov. 5, 2015, Main Street, using the 4204 brand name, hit a snag in multiple locations while trying to get its Pecan Brown Ale to market, which finally was able to be sold late last week.

The Belleville, Illinois seven-barrel brewery and steakhouse, which opened in May, 2014, also has a second pub in Alton, Illinois, both near St. Louis.

It all started getting a formula approval because of the pecans, Main Street brewmaster Tony Toenjes said that it was told to put “Malt beverage brewed with pecans” on the label.

With 22 beers on tap and the five canned brews, Pecan Brown has been 7.6% of total sales for Main Street strictly from tap sales.

Sizing and wording issues saw the brewery get three strikes from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau’s COLA (certification/exception of label/bottle approval) division, meaning it would have to start all over.

“I contacted the government liaison in Virginia, and he recommended that we make the following changes: Everywhere it says ‘malt beverage brewed with pecans,’ we had to put ‘Brown Ale brewed with pecans.’ After we did that, it got approved.”

It seemed to be smooth sailing for Main Street, which produced 1,640 bbl last year and plans to output 3,200 this year, until an artwork snag in November delayed the process.

“We received our can proof from the factory, and I compared it to the image we had.  The colors were wrong,” said brewery spokeswoman Rebecca Wuest. “After noticing the wrong colors, I called the factory liaison, and found out that they received a different art file than what our design company had sent us.”

A check at COLA online showed the artwork given to the factory was not the approved artwork.

Main Street had to cancel its order with the canning facility.

“That put us in a bit of a bind,” Wuest said. “We had pre-orders. We have customers excited about this beer. And we didn’t have our cans. We already had to wait longer on releasing this beer than any other beer, and we were not in a spot to wait longer.”

The art company Main Street worked with said it would take about two months before a new proof would be available, meaning a three-month wait before it would see cans. “This wasn’t acceptable,” Wuest said. “We had our Pecan Brown Ale brewed and ready to go. We couldn’t sit and wait that long.”

So Wuest said waterproof labels were ordered for the 30 barrel batch that was ready to be sold, but because the artwork was scaled down from the original version, the warning label and barcode were too small.

A rush order of new labels came in early last week and with the help of a borrowed hand-cranked labeling machine and four other pairs of hands, Main Street labeled Pecan Brown and started to sell.

The first 50 six-packs bought at the brewery were signed by Toenjes and the first 100 sixers sold received a free beer koozie.

“We are excited about them hitting the shelves in stores,” Wuest said.

The official cans should be available by April.


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