Government Shutdown Threatens Microbreweries

Posted at 10:26 PM, Oct 09, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-10 06:31:22-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Beer City U.S.A. and the rest of West Michigan may soon be feeling the impact of the government shutdown when they head to the pub.

Believe it or not, a government agency, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, has its hands in the beer making process.  That agency is now unable to operate due to the shutdown, and it’s limiting the number of new beers coming on the market.

The shutdown happened just when things were starting to flow for Nick Humphrey, the owner of the Hideout Brewery in Grand Rapids. “In January we were distributing nine kegs per month,” he said. “Now we are distributing 200 to 250 per month.” The brewery also distributes beer on tap to about 130 locations. “It’s a big portion of our business.”

The shutdown threatens to tap out his innovation. Every new brew sold in distribution must first meet federal approval through the TTB, which  regulates warning labels, alcohol content, and the style of beer sold.

“We believe variety is king,” said Humphrey.  “We have 25 taps that we keep full with our own beer all the time, and we rotate three or four new beers each week.”

Now that government agency isn’t processing anything and the fear is orders are starting to back up. Normally, the TTB process takes about three weeks.

“It will slow us down in new varieties,” he said.  “It’s going to take longer to get new ones approved, when they finally open. And if (TTB) is not open soon, it will slow down new releases that we want to send out.”

In addition to microbreweries, wineries and alcohol distilleries are also affected by the government shutdown.