Craft breweries suffer as government shutdown chokes beer production

Craft breweries suffer as government shutdown chokes beer production

PoliticsJanuary 16, 2019 By Will Brendza

It’s all fun and games until the government shutdown starts fucking with our beer supply.

For twenty-five days and counting the US government has been stalled in a strange limbo, held hostage by a would-be-dictator who wants $5.7 billion to build a wall on the US-Mexico border. 800,000 federal employees are on furlough, working for money they won’t see until the government re-opens, and hundreds of thousands more are simply out of work and won’t get paid at all.

Some government employees are panicking, while others are trying to make the most of this bizarre break. Trash is piling up in the national parks, airport security is at an all-time low, toxic waste cleanup at hundreds of sites across the country has ceased completely, Medicare applications are being delayed and veteran’s services have been curtailed…

Times are getting dire. But so far, life has remained relatively normal. Except for the government employees directly affected by this, for most Americans the government shutdown has seemed pretty abstract — distant and largely unrelated to the life and struggles of the everyday.

That was, until our beer producers started to feel the squeeze. Now, the chokehold is tightening around our brewers’ necks and the situation on the ground is getting very real very fast.

I’ve been joking with people that if you’re going to want a new beer coming out pretty soon, you’re going to have to drink your brother-in-law’s home brew,” Russ Klisch the founder and owner of Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee, told Associated Press.

With the government closed as it is, brewers like Klisch can’t turn out new product. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau which approves new breweries and labels for bottles and cans is closed. That means that breweries can’t produce any new beers; they can’t crank out any fresh product.

Which doesn’t bode well for their businesses.

And it sucks for consumers, too. If there’s anything that’s going to get us through this ridiculous government shutdown, it’s beer. When our supply of fresh brew starts to diminish because of Trump’s border wall stalemate, we’re looking at a much more serious problem.

This is how mutinies start.

Even if the government were to re-open today, it wouldn’t help matters much. With the bureau having been closed for so long, when they finally do reopen there is going to be a huge backlog of brewery/label approvals to contend with. They’ll be playing catch-up for months.

For brewers like David Rowland, who co-owns SoMe Brewing Company in York, Maine, that is more than an inconvenience. It’s a full-blown calamity. Rowland is on the verge of opening a second location in York Beach, the brewery is built, the beer is brewed, but they can’t get a federal permit for the business until the government shutdown is over. In the meantime, they’re still paying rent, utilities and loans on their new (closed for business) location.  

“We really did expect to have our license by now or to be darned close,” Rowland says. “[Now] we’re paying for a second location that’s not open.”

The longer this shutdown continues, the harder it’s going to get for brewers like Rowland and Klisch. And the harder it gets for them, the harder it’s going to get for the American people. Without beer and breweries to nourish us through these trying times, the very fabric of our democratic society may start to unravel.

Trump is playing with fire here and he doesn’t even know it. If he wants to make it through his presidential term without having a full-blown beer mutiny on his hands, it’s in his best interest to figure this shit out — quit with the political posturing and put the people before the wall.  

Klisch had the right idea:

I think if they all got a beer together and they drank one in a room, they would figure it out,” Klisch says. “A few beers. I think they need a few beers, and they’ll figure out this shutdown.”