In its coverage of the government shutdown, mainstream media, so far, has focused on relateable concepts, like denied access to National Parks, for instance. And for good reason—park closures are tangible and something we can wrap our heads around. By now, we're all well aware of the couple who, for years, planned a Grand Canyon trip and finally pulled a permit, only to have the whole expedition fall apart because House speaker John Boehner doesn't understand how a democracy works. Of course, there are plenty more tales—much sadder and less first-world-problem—of the shutdown's chilling effects on everyday Americans, but that's material for another post.
So, at the risk of getting clumped in with mainstream media, here's another relateable concept: The government shutdown is now taking a toll on the craft brewing industry. Two days ago, eater.com ran a story outlining how, with its workers furloughed, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) is not doing its thing, which includes approving new breweries, recipes, and labels. That means brewery openings will be delayed and all those fall and winter seasonal brews are on hold, since TTB officials aren't available to sign off on new formulas.
Now, 11 days into the government shutdown, local breweries are starting to get nervous.
Co-owner of Crux Fermentation Project, Paul Evers, said that his brewery has at least two new, experimental brews in the works, and was planning on a late-December release. Now, he's not so sure.
"That agency [TTB] isn't reviewing or approving anything," Evers said. "It is a concern—there's definitely going to be an impact. They were already slow, now there's going to be a backlog. Everyday has a compounding effect."
Of course, Crux isn't the only brewery that's been affected. From the eater.com:
The processing delays can result in major costs for the breweries. Brenner Brewing in Milwaukee had been planning for a December opening, but is unable to continue filing the necessary paperwork. The owner tells the AP that he estimates each month the opening is delayed will cost $8,000. For breweries that are already established, the delays in label approvals could mean increased costs on rushing the new beers to market when that approval is finally received. In South Carolina, the State reports that the brewers at Conquest can't begin bottling (and selling) their debut beer. Apparently the shutdown has less of an impact on massive brewing companies like Anheuser-Busch, since they can continue to produce their already existing products.
So will local taps really dry up? Doubtful. There are plenty of pre-approved beers out there. And with any luck, Congress will soon get its act together and put federal employees back to work (which means getting those new brews into our pint glasses). But in the meantime, the shutdown is severely hampering tax-paying, micro-brewing bystanders.