After being closed for more than two weeks, the government shutdown finally came to an end yesterday. This is good news for all government employees, including the very unhappy-looking TSA agent I encountered at the airport last weekend. But the shutdown went much deeper than holds on government pay; it had a major impact on beer!
During the shutdown, the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) couldn't process applications for new brewery licenses, beer recipes or new label art. This created a big problem, since fall seasonal beer is rolling out right now. Breweries with labels approved for printing before the shutdown were able to gain significant competitive advantage, getting their beers on the shelves weeks before those breweries whose weren't printed in time.
So what exactly did you miss? A number of excellent beers awaited approval before the government shutdown, some in excess of 50 days. Some of the more exotic brews pending approval included a holiday beer from Two Brothers Brewing made with chocolate and coconut; Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ale’s Los Vivos y Los Muertos, a sour ale brewed with pumpkin and lime; and The Bruery’s 6 Geese-A-Laying, this year’s gooseberry-infused addition to their "12 beers of Christmas" series. The consequences of a delay like this can get costly, even for something as basic as changing the size from six-pack to 22-ouncer. Yes, that needs approval, too (and prompted Lagunitas owner Tony Magee to speak out against the shutdown via Twitter).
Cigar City Brewing, Brooklyn Brewery, Hopworks Urban Brewery and New Belgium Brewing also were among the bigger breweries shut out from label approval. Eugene, OR's Ninkasi Brewing Company must be elated the shutdown is over, as they were waiting to submit ten labels for approval.
The shutdown also impacted some major brewery modifications and brewery openings. Wisconsin's new Brenner Brewing, set to open in December, got hit particularly hard as its label and tasting room applications were still pending. If the brewery opening is thrown off, they could lose up to $8,000 a month (not cool!). Heavy Seas Beer out of Maryland had to delay the launch of their new $3 million packaging machine. Things got even messier in the case of Listermann Brewing from Cincinnati, Ohio, where the brewery received a $40,000 state grant to help buy a bottling line. A clause in their contract says if the line isn’t operational by November, they may lose their funding — our fingers are crossed they make an exception!
So seek out beers from these breweries who might appreciate a little extra revenue and celebrate whatever the opposite of a shutdown is (a government?) with a much-needed brew.
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