The Longer the Government Shutdown Goes On, the Bigger Problem it Becomes for Craft Brewers
The government shutdown is now in its third week due to the debate over a border wall and has resulted in noted consequences for federal workers, government entities and general governmental functions. While many are more pressing, perhaps the one many craft beer fans should keep an eye on is how it impacts the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).
One of TTB’s functions is approving new beer labels, licenses and ingredients that are vital to the continued business of any craft brewer, winery or distiller. As long as the government keeps its doors shut, the TTB does too, which means any meaningful innovation or initiative from craft brewers come to a grinding halt as the government body will not “review or approve any new submissions” during the shutdown. Here are some of the major implications if the government decides to extend the shutdown further.
Brewers Should Expect A Big Approval Backlog
Perhaps the biggest and most pressing consequence of the government shutdown comes in the form of beer labels. While the TTB remains closed, no new beer labels can be approved which means brewers across the nation won’t be able to release any new offerings until after the TTB comes back online. While typical 2019 release schedules and other previously-approved labels remain unscathed, the biggest problem here comes from the long backlog this could cause for the TTB once it reopens. As the more than 7,000 brewers across the nation try to appease the increasingly curious taste buds of their consumers, the queue of new beer label submissions will get backed up — quickly. Even when the TTB reopens, consumers and craft brewers alike should expect a pretty significant delay in their beer releases. That said, Josh Noel of the Chicago Tribune makes a good point that any beer not leaving the state it is made in is typically not subject to TTB label approval.
Hey @realDonaldTrump, we are an American-owned company and we want to distribute a new beer, but the shutdown includes the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau… so we currently can't move forward. Please help. The people want the beer. #beer2020
— Prairie Artisan Ales (@prairieales) January 7, 2019
The Cadence of Seasonal Beer Releases is Put on Hold
This one ties heavily to the label approval backlog the shutdown creates. With more than three weeks of pending beer label submissions still in limbo, new seasonal releases may get forced off-schedule or completely nixed if the TTB remains closed for a significant period of time. The sad reality is that brewers only have a select window of time to sell their uniquely seasonal beers like winter ales and doppelbocks, and if the labels for their new seasonal releases don’t get approved in-time, some brewers may choose to limit their distribution or simply not distribute these new brews at all if they fall out of season. The clock is definitely ticking on the post-Christmas winter seasonals and new spring seasonal releases.
New Breweries Won’t Be Able to Open
Another unintended consequence of the shutdown is the impact it has on the burgeoning entrepreneurial spirit of the craft beer industry. Due to the shutdown, new breweries and potential craft beer startups will have to wait to get their business licenses approved, effectively halting any business progress until things come back online. Having new blood in the industry is vital to the continued growth, excitement and innovation that has made the craft beer movement so popular over the past decade. Losing that, or delaying that for some period, is definitely an unfortunate consequence. Fingers crossed everything gets sorted out soon.