Craft beer, the long-time favorite beverage of many Wisconsinites, is the latest industry to feel the effects of the federal shutdown.
The fall and winter production plans for breweries in the Madison area could face new obstacles after the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau closed along with other agencies when the partial government shutdown began on Oct. 1, according to Corey Wehling, vice president of sales at Capital Brewery.
The introduction of new craft beers could also be halted until the government is fully operational again, he said.
According to its website, the bureau is responsible for enforcing the Federal Alcohol Administration Act, which covers regulations on operations, labels, recipes and several other aspects of production of alcohol and tobacco products.
“The TTB is basically closed for any new label or new liquid approvals, and you have to have that before you put anything out,” Wehling said. “[Capital Brewery] had planned to submit a new brand label for approval on Tuesday of next week, and that obviously won’t happen.”
Wehling added the brewery had also hoped to release a new beer called “Dark Voyage” on Dec. 1 before the bureau closed.
The inability to get approval from the TTB could also have a significant impact on Capital Brewery’s profits because some of the brewery’s distributors and stores that buy their products have expressed some “uneasiness” due to the shutdown, Wehling said.
“We were projecting sales of a few thousand cases for the first month, and that would be upwards of five figures for us,” Wehling said. “[The distributors] are concerned because they know about our planned launch and that it’s not going to happen.”
Page Buchanan, owner of Madison-based House of Brews, which distributes to local businesses such as the Weary Traveler Free House, the Old Fashioned and the Fountain, said another frustration has to do with the tax on alcohol producers.
Buchanan said the tax is due on Oct. 15 and breweries will still be paying it this year, despite their inability to introduce new products amid the shutdown.
“They’ll be taking the money without providing the services,” Buchanan said. “It’s kind of like, ‘Oh…OK.’”
Karben4 Brewing of Madison, although not immediately affected, could see issues in the future, Ryan Koga, brewmaster and owner, said.
TTB is the agency responsible for approving new recipes, including anything other than the normal grains used in beer production, and this is an area that could pose a problem for Karben4 as the holiday season approaches.
The official list of regulations on TTB’s website names herbs and spices, among other types of flavoring during fermentation, as “adjuncts” that must be listed and approved for the beverage to be sold.
If the federal bureau is still closed nearer to the end of the year and Karben4 cannot get approval for their holiday brew, Koga said he may have to leave out the spices he would like to include.
“For our Yuletide Spout, we were going to be using small bits of spices,” Koga said. “The closer it gets to Christmas, I’m gonna have a holdup.”