Outrageous health claims no joke?

Q We’ve produced some tongue-in-cheek shelf barkers which make all kinds of weird and wonderful claims about the products we sell. Some of our tannic French reds will help you live longer, we joke, and a certain stout will give you strength. Trading Standards are not impressed, but surely we’re not breaking any laws with our humorous approach???A You’re up against European Union regulations, which are not famed for their sense of humour. There’s a specific rule about making nutrition and health claims for alcoholic products (1.2% abv and above) which can be summarised in one word: don’t.

If your notes are so over the top that they’re clearly not going to be taken seriously (“this Cahors will make you live an extra 100 years”) you can probably expect officialdom to leave you alone. But, in theory, any health claim you make for an alcoholic product – even if it appears to be backed up by the latest research from an obscure laboratory in California – is illegal.

?Q I would like to broaden my range of world beers with a selection of US products. Is it easy to import directly, and if so, how should I go about it???A Unless you’re planning to import in serious quantities, the aggravation of bringing US beers to the UK independently seems like an awful lot of unnecessary bother. You could always team up with other retailers, or perhaps think about wholesaling some of what you buy, if you do decide to ship in bulk.

But there are already beer wholesalers doing this kind of thing for you, and you’re almost certainly better off using their services and expertise.

There has often been talk of an explosion of interest in US microbrewers, which between them produce a vast and eclectic range of beer styles, often characterised by intense hop flavours. To some extent the boom has been muted by growing public interest in the output of UK brewers, but US beers can still add extra breadth and colour to any beer fixture.

The Brewers Association, a US trade body representing craft brewers, has identified the UK as a growth opportunity for its members and has established a good relationship with Vertical Drinks, which already handles a number of US brands (including the beloved Sierra Nevada Pale Ale).

It has given them a presence at the Great British Beer Festival.

Recently Vertical agreed a deal with the BA to buy a one-off consignment of 600 cases from some selected US micros, and to place follow-up orders dependent on their subsequent performance.

The BA is smoothing the process by storing all beers centrally in its Colorado warehouse.

Other importers worth checking out include James Clay, Cave Direct, Beer Paradise, Beers of Europe and Pierhead.