Business, Politics

Meet the Beer Bottle Dictator

Widely regarded as an eccentric bureaucrat, Kent ‘Battle’ Martin approves essentially every beer label in the United States, giving him awesome power over a huge industry.

For years, one man has approved virtually every beer label design in the United States. Among brewers, he’s a tyrant. A legend.

A pedantic pain in the ass.

Brewers and legal experts speak of him in hushed tones, with equal parts irritation and reverence.

He’s the king of beer. His will is law, said one lawyer who works with him regularly. The lawyer asked to remain anonymous, for fear of crossing the beer specialist. There’s one dude in the government who gets to control a multibillion-dollar industry with almost no supervision.

And he goes by the name Battle.

Any brewery that wants to market its wares in this country needs to get it through Kent Battle Martin, giving the federal official extraordinary power. With only vague regulations outlining what is and isn’t permissible, he approves beer bottles and labels for the Tax and Trade Bureau, or TTB, a section of the Treasury Department.

Those who have interacted with him describe him as brusque, eccentric, clenched. He is tensely and formally dressed on all occasions, with an encyclopedic memory of beer labels. He is bespectacled and somewhat awkward.

This year, Battle has singlehandedly approved over 29,500 beer labels, the only fact his press handler would provide. The TTB would not even provide basic biographical details about the famed regulator, much less make him available for an interview — via

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