Killed by Regulations: New Century Brewing, RIP

Add another name to the list of the dead as a result of actions taken by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). I certainly feel a lot safer now that the government agency has made sure the evil entrepreneur is out of a job and we zombie-like consumers can’t get our hands on her dangerous product: light beer!

Sarcasm aside, this sad news broke at the end of last month; Rhonda Kallman, the co-founder of Sam Adams Brewery, was officially shutting down for good her newest outfit, New Century Brewing. All thanks to regulations.

Kallman shut down her small brewery after months of the FDA hounding her to reformulate her flagship product, Moonshot, a light beer that also happened to contain a small amount of caffeine.

I’ve followed Kallman’s tragic story since last December — the maverick beer maven who you might have seen in the movie Beer Wars. After leaving Boston Beer Co., Rhonda took the major financial risk of forming craft beer company New Century Brewing to peddle the idea she was sure would be a hit: a caffeinated light beer. While her brew, Moonshot, didn’t take off with the oomph of a rocket ship, it was slowly gaining a following, that is until the FDA decided to step in and kill it.

This last November, after a few notorious news stories about young adults over-indulging in Four Loko, and a few excitable attorneys general petitioned the FDA, the agency issued warning letters to four brewers of beverages that contained caffeine and alcohol, giving them 15 days to either reformulate their product or take it off shelves. Kallman’s brewery was one of the four to receive the warning.

Compared with Four Loko and other alcoholic energy drinks, Moonshot has a relatively miniscule amount of caffeine and alcohol: 5 percent ABV and less caffeine than a half of a cup of coffee — 69 milligrams — while Four Loko had about 12 percent ABV and over 200 milligrams of caffeine.

Of course, regardless of the caffeine content, the FDA had no reason to demand that drink-makers reformulate their products. Caffeine has been consumed with alcohol for generations. The responsibility to prove a health threat from these products should have been on the FDA before it killed the products and, as a result, small businesses.

“As a citizen I’m confused … as an entrepreneur I’m flabbergasted,” Kallman told me in December when all of this started.

We hear you, Rhonda, and we are just as perplexed as to why Americans continue to allow agencies such as the FDA, that are run by unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats, to interfere with our lives.