Metro-East Living

If you drink craft beer, here’s how you’re being hurt by the government shutdown

As the government shutdown continues, popular craft breweries in the metro-east have been forced to put the production of new formulas and retail labels on hold.

Around the country, craft breweries and distilleries cannot debut and introduce unapproved retail products because an arm of the Treasury Department, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau is currently closed.

Production of labels and recipes previously approved will continue, but new craft beer formulas and labels will not be released until the shutdown is over.

“It’s not a good situation for us,” Excel Brewery and Bottling Co. General Manager Bill Meier said on day 33 of the shutdown.

The popular Breese-bottling company, known for its iconic brand Ski, started brewing beer six years ago.

Since then, the company has released a new beer every spring, but this year the company can’t start that process until the shutdown ends. On top of that, Excel has two bottling clients on hold due to the shutdown.

They need label requests approved, a process that usually takes about 30 days by mail, but that wait time could be even longer with the backlog of Certificate of Label Approval requests waiting for approval.

The wait for label approvals isn’t the only problem local brewers face.

Old Herald Brewing Co. and Ardent Spirits, Inc. in Collinsville, a new comer to craft beer scene, has experienced delays when it comes to yeast needed for beer due to lack of FDA approval or inspections available in the supply chain.

The brewery and distillery opened less than a month ago.

“Fortunately we are mostly focused on producing for sales in house,” co-owner Derik Reiser wrote in an email Tuesday. “If we were distributing the impact would be much greater.”

Meanwhile in Washington D.C., an agreement has yet to be reached.

The government shutdown pivots on a budget impasse between Democrats and Republicans, who support President Donald Trump’s demand for $5.7 million to build a security wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Democrats, who now control the U.S. House of Representatives, don’t want wall funding in an appropriations bill which would reopen the 25 percent of the federal government which is now shut down.

To entice Democrats to the negotiating table, Trump over the weekend offered to protections for immigrants under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and those in the country under temporary protection status. This would allow children and teenagers from Central America to apply for asylum. Trump also offered $800 million to improve care for immigrant families at the border.

The shutdown has left more than 450,000 federal employees without pay. An additional 380,000 employees in the federal government have been furloughed.

In the midst of the shutdown, Atlas, a Washington D.C.-based craft brewer, has sued the Trump administration, according to the Hill, claiming that shutdown violated the company’s First Amendment rights because it can’t sell its beer dubbed “The Precious One” out of state.

“We see our labels as a form of speech, that’s how we speak to our consumers,” Justin Cox, founder and CEO of Atlas, told DCist. “We’re unable to exercise that right without approval from the federal government.”

Reporter Joseph Bustos contributed to this article.
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Cara Anthony covers restaurants and retail for the Belleville News-Democrat, where she works to answer readers’ questions about restaurant openings, business closures and the best new dishes in the metro-east. She attended Althoff Catholic High School in Belleville and grew up in East St. Louis.
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