LOCAL BREWERS AFFECTED:
Thanks to the federal government shutdown, industry is in limbo
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.”
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.
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.