Over the past decade, the craft beer industry has exploded. According to the Brewers Association, there were 409 brewery openings in 2012. With the sales of craft beer continuing to rise, we should expect 2013 to be as successful as 2012.
Unfortunately, the government is mucking up the progress of hardworking, independent brewers because the agency that approves new breweries and new beers from existing breweries is closed. The AP reports that the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau or TTB, part of the Treasury Department, usually issues permits for new breweries, recipes and labels. The TTB is closed down during the shutdown — well, mostly.
The TTB is still able to collect taxes from existing permit holders. Yes, the government will still collect taxes from the companies, even though it is not permitting them to continue business as usual.
Here’s one of the big problems. Craft breweries might have a few standard brews that their customers expect to be available all the time, but the majority of craft breweries are continuously creating new, seasonal beers. New recipes can’t get approval right now. Existing breweries will lose business if they can’t offer new and innovative brews to their fan bases. The normal wait time for approval for new beers had been 75 days. When the TTB is operating again, the backlog will certainly make the wait time even longer.
Breweries that are waiting for approval to open can’t move forward with their plans. Applications that have already been submitted, like the one Mike Brenner of Milwaukee filed for a tasting room for his brewery, are on hold. No new applications are being accepted. Entrepreneurs in the beer industry are understandably frustrated and angry.
"My dream, this is six years in the making, is to open this brewery," Brenner told the AP. "I've been working so hard, and I find all these great investors. And now I can't get started because people are fighting over this or that in Washington. ... This is something people don't mess around with. Even in a bad economy, people drink beer."
Just add this to the list of effects of the government shutdown. We’re now into day 10, with no new beers on the horizon to take the edge off.
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