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Government Shutdown Affects Breweries

This article by Erika Goedrich is reprinted by permission from the Jan. 2, 2019 Craft Beer Cellar DC newsletter. You can subscribe to that newsletter here. During the shutdown they will be offering a 5% discount to furloughed federal employees (and contractors).

The partial shutdown of the U.S. government is running into its second week. With many friends, family, and co-workers currently furloughed, we see the impact here in DC more than many areas of the country.

Brewers around the country are also affected by the partial shutdown. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau suspended all non-excepted operations.

We were wondering what this meant, so we went to our local brewery friends for some answers. Dave Coleman, President of 3 Stars Brewing Company, says, "TTB being closed means that no new beers or labels are currently being approved, which will put delays on new beers being released into our markets.  I don't think we will see any impact on the importing of hops or malt since most of that stuff is already in the country as the hop harvest happened in the fall. All in all, not a great situation to say the least, so hopefully they can work around some of the issues that are standing in the way of our government actually conducting business."

Port City founder Bill Butcher concurs, "With the government shutdown, TTB won't be reviewing recipes or labels, which means that any packaged beer that still needs approval will have to be held until the Federal agency reopens." He is thankful that they already have approval for all the labels needed for the first quarter of 2019, like their 8th anniversary doppelbock COLOSSAL® 8. For that reason, they shouldn't have to adjust their release calendar any time soon.  "However, many craft breweries who planned on working with a normal TTB approval timeline may have to push off release dates. And since we're not sure when TTB will reopen, it makes it that much more difficult to plan for new releases," he says.

Butcher explains that it also has downstream effects. "We work hard to get ahead of our business and this just wrecks our plans. If we can't get our new labels approved in a timely manner, then it affects our entire operation. It hurts our employees, our farmers who provide our grain, our hops suppliers, our label printers, our box manufacturers and ultimately our distributors, retailers, and beer drinkers. This is a failure of the government to do its job!  Everyone suffers from the shutdown by slowing our business after we have busted our tails planning. It is inexcusable that this should happen."

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