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Federal Shutdown Puts a Cap on New Craft Beers

Outside White River Brewing Company / Photo Credit: Shannon Bowers

While the Alcohol, Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, or TTB, will continue to process taxes from existing permit holders, new applications are in limbo. KSMU’s Shannon Bowers has reaction from local brewing companies. 

In the growing craft beer industry, smaller brewing companies are feeling it more than others. Previously set to open in late fall, the folks at Leaky Roof Meadery in Buffalo, Missouri don’t know when they will be able to open up their doors.

The company’s Jhett Collins says the shutdown has held up the process for getting their name and brand out on the market. It has also forced them to furlough three of their five employees. 

“A craft drinker doesn’t have too much of a band loyalty. They enjoy drinking many different types of alcohol, and if you don’t stay new and competitive and crisp and fresh than often times you are losing money. You are not gaining as much as you could be,” said Collins.

They are ready to open their business as soon as they have their federal license, beer formula, and label all approved by  the TTB. But Leaky Roof Meadery fears that this could back up the business’ opening until late spring.

“We, in theory, could have started and produced our first batches already,” said Collins.

Established craft breweries are feeling the effects of the shutdown as well. Elonzo King with White River Brewing Company says they have two seasonal labels waiting for approval.

“There is no telling how much time it would take for the TTB to approve our label now. Just because one, they were so backlogged to begin with. For instance, they have one special agent who looks over 14,000 labels a month,” said King.  

Springfield Brewing Company also has two labels currently in limbo. SBC said last spring it only took nine days for the TTB to approve their labels. This year, however, before the shutdown began, the wait was already 59 days.  They fear those numbers will do nothing but rise as the government remains at a standstill.

“What makes craft breweries unique are the special beers that change with the seasons,” said King.

If local brewing companies can’t keep up with the seasons, they are afraid their customers won’t keep up with them. Until the federal shutdown ends, certain craft beer will have to wait.

For KSMU News, I’m Shannon Bowers.