As pundits on the Potomac continue to bemoan the government shutdown and tourists squint at national monuments and parks from a distance, craft brewers are also being affected by the ongoing furloughing of federal employees.
Like the rest of the nation’s federal workers, operations at the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), have stalled. This means that no new breweries, products or labels can be approved by the TTB, preventing them from legally entering the marketplace. Craft brewers have introduced hundreds of new products in the past couple of years alone, but the slowdown has the potential to sap the novelty-based trials that an ever-expanding suite of products and brands have engendered within the industry’s consumer base.
Aside from mandating rules and regulations for the beer industry, the TTB also conducts daily reviews of permits for new business proposals and new products, including package labeling. Until the government returns to standard operations, the TTB won’t respond to any kinds of inquiries, according to a notice on its website.
An article in The Wall Street Journal said that the TTB approved more than 130,000 label applications in 2012. Shortly before the government shutdown, the TTB had also published 70 new permit approvals for importers, distributors and brewers.
While new and expanding breweries may take issue with the delayed procedures, SweetWater Brewing Company of Atlanta found a way to make the best of a rare situation. Last Wednesday, the brewery offered a free brewery tour, a souvenir pint glass and six beer samples for federal government employees.
Francesca Zeifman, SweetWater’s communications manager, said that about 230 furloughed government employees attended the event, which received attention from local media outlets.
Zeifman also said that SweetWater hasn’t yet been affected by the government shutdown because the brewery had no labels that needed approval.