Federal shutdown means hold up on some Eagle County beer
October 18, 2013
EAGLE COUNTY — If you're brewing a new beer, the government shutdown is harshing your mellow.
The government agency that approves new beer recipes and labels is furloughed as part of the government shutdown. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau is a little-known arm of the Treasury Department, the agency that collects money through the IRS.
The bureau is part of the 17 percent of the federal government that's furloughed. It's still collecting taxes, but won't process applications for new labels, recipes or breweries.
"It's frustrating. They can take your money, but they won't give us any services," said Marisa Selvy, Crazy Mountain's marketing director.
You can still buy beer, but holiday brews are hanging by a strand of tinsel.
Crazy Mountain Brewery, for example, is waiting to turn out its Bridge St. Holiday Ale bombers. The beer is ready to brew, but the labels can't be processed by the agency, said Maria Klopfenstein, Crazy Mountain's director of accounting and government compliance.
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The standard time to get a label approved is 4 to 6 weeks, she said.
The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approves recipes for new breweries, new brews and new labels. The bureau wants out-of-the-ordinary ingredients listed, like the nutmeg in Crazy Mountain's Bridge St. Holiday Ale or the vanilla beans in Bonfire Brewery's vanilla porter.
Unaffected local breweries
Andy Jessen with Bonfire Brewery in Eagle said that, for now, they have all the approvals they need and are moving ahead with statewide distribution.
"We're fine for now. Everything out there now already has label approvals. If this goes on a month or two, it could be trouble," Jessen said.
Gore Range Brewery, the brew pub in Edwards, dodged this bureaucratic bullet by adhering to their philosophy of "the more beer and the less government you have in your life, the better your life will be."
"Because we're more of a brew pub, none of our licenses are affected," said Jessica Greene, Gore Range Brewery general manager.
They don't do labels, only serving their beer in the restaurant. They canned their lager once, a long time ago, and that's their only label. If you walk out the door with some Gore Range brew, it's in a growler.
"We don't have to deal with them. It has not affected the way we do business," Greene said.
It was big news at last weekend's Great American Beer Fest in Denver, Greene said. Lots of breweries have lots of beer ready to brew or distribute, but can't do either because the bureau is in that 17 percent of the federal government that was furloughed.
New Belgium's take
Bryan Simpson, a spokesman for New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, said his brewery has three recipes and five new labels awaiting approval. The company is especially worried that the release of its new spring label, Spring Blonde, could get pushed back. More delays might force New Belgium to shell out extra money to speed up the label printing and rush the beer to market, he said.
"Everybody is frustrated in general," Simpson said. "The way this has played out has been disappointing for the entire country."
For industry giants, it's business as usual, but it's a problem for craft brewers, who brew new flavors all the time.
"One could think of this shutdown as basically stopping business indefinitely for anyone who didn't have certain paperwork in place back in mid-August," said Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association, which represents more than 1,900 U.S. breweries.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vail daily.com.