TTB Label “Dictator” Retires


Kent Battle Martin has been called many things throughout his time as the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau’s Malt Beverage Labeling Specialist.

A 2014 Daily Beast profile described Battle as the “beer bottle dictator,” characterizing him as the “tyrant,” and “pedantic pain in the ass” that has approved every beer label design in the U.S. for the better part of a decade.

Indeed, since joining TTB in October 2004, Battle has single-handedly reviewed every malt beverage label application ever submitted. But on May 28, that came to an end.

The TTB has formally announced Battle’s retirement from the U.S. Treasury, which is tasked with monitoring and enforcing compliance for the expansive beverage alcoholic category.

“Battle’s departure marks the end of an era at TTB,” a statement read.

The end of an era indeed — Battle processed over 60,000 malt beverage labels in 2013 and 2014 alone. Since just last October, he had already reviewed over 25,000 labels.

A polarizing figure in craft beer circles, most brewers had somewhat of a love/hate relationship with the man. In the Daily Beast piece, Scott Newman-Bale, a partner at Michigan’s Shorts Brewing, was quoted as saying “I’ve never seen anyone working as hard as him.”

His reputation for being an eccentric and, at times, awkward figure at the controls of a multi-billion dollar industry has practically taken on a life of its own. He was known for approving labels in the middle of the night and rejecting labels for including nuanced design elements like googly eyes on a Santa or a hamburger, which, according to Battle, implied there were meat additives in the beer.

At trade shows, brewers have routinely traded whispers about their run-ins with the label czar, and how he could make or break the production of a beer with the single stroke of a pen.

But don’t tell TTB copywriters that.

“He was also a very popular person at many beer industry conferences and trade shows over the years, providing advice, presenting seminars, and even processing people’s malt beverage label applications on the spot,” the release stated.

Also, according to the announcement, Michael Webster will now the lead TTB’s malt beverage labeling efforts.