There has been a lot of buzz around hard sparkling seltzer this year. This has left some people wondering if it is regulated any differently than other alcoholic beverages. Frank Knizer of Lehrman Beverage Law explains below:
The majority of hard seltzer is produced from either a brewed-malt (“clear malt”) or brewed-sugar (where 100% of the fermentables are derived from non-malt sugar) base, with carbonated water and added flavor. Under Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) regulations, both malt- and sugar-based hard seltzers are considered “beer,” but only malt-based hard seltzers are also considered “malt beverages.” This means that federal beer rules (27 CFR Part 25) apply to both malt- and sugar-based hard seltzers, but federal malt beverage labeling and advertising rules (27 CFR Part 7) apply only to malt-based hard seltzers.
The upshot of all this is that producing a hard seltzer with either type of base requires a Brewer’s Notice, and – if you’re adding flavor or color – TTB formula approval. Likewise, both malt- and sugar-based hard seltzers are taxed federally as “beer.” But, of these two types, only malt-based hard seltzers need to conform to federal malt beverage labeling rules (i.e., require a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA)). By contrast, sugar-based hard seltzers do not require a COLA, but do need to comply with FDA labeling rules (21 CFR Part 101)...
Read more details about its regulations here.