In an administrative order dated November 4, 2010, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission rescinded the approval of all “alcohol energy drinks” in the state of Michigan. The administrative order included a list of rescinded products entitled “Products with Stimulants” that includes MateVeza, an organic, naturally caffeinated craft beer brewed with yerba mate, the South American tea.
The administrative order states, “The safety of these intentionally infused stimulants . . . has not been established by scientific evidence or the FDA as ‘generally recognized as safe’ additives to alcoholic beverages (GRAS).” The FDA GRAS List recognizes yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis) as “generally recognized as safe” without any limitations. Hops, a key ingredient in the beer brewing process, are also included on the same list without any limitations. Caffeine, on the other hand, is “generally recognized as safe” with the following limitation: “when used in cola-type beverages in accordance with good manufacturing practice.” Since MateVeza is made with yerba mate as an ingredient and not caffeine as an additive, it is in full compliance with the FDA GRAS List and is under no obligation to establish the safety of its products.
An accompanying press release titled “Alcohol Energy Drinks Banned from the Michigan Market” explains, “A typical alcohol energy drink is 24 ounces and has a 12 percent alcohol content, compared to a 12 ounce can of beer, which normally has an alcohol content ranging from 4 to 5 percent.” However, the MateVeza product referenced in the Commission’s administrative order is listed as having an alcohol percentage of 5%, which falls within their stated range of a typical beer. Contrary to the Commission’s position that Alcohol Energy Drink “packaging is often misleading”, MateVeza is packaged in 12 and 22-ounce bottles and sold alongside other craft beer products. It’s high level of hop bitterness (40 IBUs) and inclusion of a bitter tea hardly fits their characterization of a product that is “directly appealing to a younger consumer”.
Even though MateVeza is not currently sold in Michigan, MateVeza has brought this information to the attention of the Michigan Liquor Control Commission and will work to preserve its ability to conduct business in the state of Michigan. Brewing with ingredients that naturally contain caffeine such as chocolate, coffee, tea, and yerba mate (all of which are included on the FDA GRAS List) is an important part of the craft beer movement. MateVeza will do its best to preserve this tradition for all craft brewers.
The Commission’s next public hearing will be Wednesday, December 1, at 11am in Lansing, MI. If you would like to express your support for MateVeza and the practice of brewing craft beer with chocolate, coffee, tea, and yerba mate, we urge you to write the commission now and ask them to remove MateVeza from its list of rescinded products. Please remain polite and professional in your requests. The Commission’s contact information is as follows:
Nida R. Samona, MLCC Chairperson
Liquor Control Commission
P.O. Box 30005 Lansing, MI 48909
Ph: (517) 322-1345
MateVeza (Mate + Cerveza) markets and sells organic, naturally caffeinated ales brewed with yerba mate, the South American herbal tea. MateVeza was founded in 2006 by homebrewer Jim Woods after he fortuitously followed a sip of freshly brewed yerba mate with a hoppy pale ale in his San Francisco apartment. MateVeza’s award-winning initial release, Yerba Mate Gold, and new Yerba Mate IPA are brewed and bottled in Ukiah, California. MateVeza is USDA certified organic by CCOF. More information about MateVeza is available at www.mateveza.com.