LO­CAL BREW­ERS AF­FECTED:

Thanks to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment shut­down, in­dus­try is in limbo

Hartford Courant - - Front Page - By Steven Goode

New craft beers are sit­ting in kegs and bot­tles at Con­necti­cut brew­eries. But thanks to the gov­ern­ment shut­down you can’t drink some of them. Story,

Craft beer en­thu­si­asts al­ways on the look­out for the next new canned or bot­tled mi­cro-beer might have to wait a while.

As a re­sult of the gov­ern­ment shut­down, the fed­eral Al­co­hol and To­bacco Tax and Trade Bu­reau — known as TTB — has gone on hia­tus, and any new brews the agency hasn’t yet ap­proved are in the same boat, at least be­yond the brew­ery walls.

That’s be­cause the TTB, a part of the U.S. Depart­ment of Trea­sury, is re­spon­si­ble for ap­prov­ing any new la­bels, and with­out that ap­proval, those brews are stuck in tanks and un­la­beled bot­tles that can’t leave the premises.

For Barry Labendz of Kent Falls Brew­ing Co. in Kent, that means a lot of new beer sit­ting in kegs and bot­tles with­out la­bels and no clear idea of when they can fi­nally be sold.

“Thank­fully, this beer will age well, up to a year,” said Labendz, who was at Hooker Brew­ing Co. in Bloom­field Fri­day to dis­cuss the sit­u­a­tion with U.S. Sen. Richard Blu­men­thal and a half dozen other craft brew­ers.

But the shut­down, now en­ter­ing its fourth week with no end in sight, has wreaked havoc on the com­pany’s sched­ul­ing of the beers it pro­duces at dif­fer­ent times of the year, caus­ing Labendz to put off mak­ing any IPAs, whose shelf life is much shorter.

“We put a 60-day best-by date on our beers,” he said. “If [the shut­down is] four weeks, do you want to sell some­thing half­way through its best-by date?”

The TTB is also in charge of ap­prov­ing ap­pli­ca­tions for brew­ery ex­pan­sions and new brew­eries.

Rachel and Michael Hasel­tine, of Bet­ter Half Brew­ing in Bris­tol, were plan­ning to open their new brew­ery in April, but got no­tice on Dec. 22 that a few tweaks were

nec­es­sary on their ap­pli­ca­tion. The gov­ern­ment shut down be­fore the cou­ple could make the changes.

The halt to gov­ern­ment ap­provals comes at an in­op­por­tune time on more than one front for the Haseltines. Their equip­ment is on its way from Oregon and, once its de­liv­ered, they will have to start mak­ing pay­ments, even though they are now fac­ing a May or even June open­ing.

The sta­tus of their ap­pli­ca­tion may be up in the air as well.

“We were told that if we didn't re­spond by Dec. 29 that they were go­ing to con­sider our ap­pli­ca­tion aban­doned,” Rachel Hasel­tine said.

For Mike Teed of Black Pond Brew­ing in the Daniel­son sec­tion of Killingly, the shut­down has had a twopronged ef­fect. The com­pany is poised for an ex­pan­sion that would turn the first floor of its build­ing into a full pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity and the sec­ond floor into a tast­ing room, but that can't hap­pen with­out ap­provals.

Teed, who is vice pres­i­dent of the Con­necti­cut Brew­ers Guild, also was plan­ning a big roll­out of a new beer in Fe­bru­ary.

“Mov­ing new prod­uct is our lifeblood,” he said.

But that roll­out has been put on hold over con­cerns that the prod­uct may spoil be­fore it can get to stores and restau­rants.

Be­tween the hold on the move and ex­pected loss of rev­enue from in­tro­duc­ing new beers, Teed es­ti­mates that the shut­down has cost Black Pond thou­sands of dol­lars.

“Ev­ery day it goes on the worse it gets,” he said. “I would have fig­ured that by now some sort of deal would have been struck.”

MARK MIRKO/HART­FORD COURANT

Barry Labendz, left, of Kent Falls Brew­ing shows a bot­tle of his com­pany’s beer that is un­able to be dis­trib­uted be­cause the gov­ern­ment agency ap­prov­ing beer la­bels is closed dur­ing the shut­down. Pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion de­lays are slow­ing down pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion through­out the in­dus­try, and Labendz, whose com­pany pro­vides health care and 401(k) ben­e­fits says an ex­tended shut­down would cause “prob­lems” and “suf­fer­ing” for his em­ploy­ees.

MARK MIRKO/HART­FORD COURANT

Mike Teed, left, of Black Pond Brews in Killingly, lis­tens as Sen. Richard Blu­men­thal speaks dur­ing a press con­fer­ence em­pha­siz­ing the pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion de­lays re­sult­ing from the shut­down of the fed­eral agen­cies that over­see their op­er­a­tions.

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