January 7, 2019
Government Shutdown Threatens US Beer And Wine Supplies

The Government shutdown has been in effect for 17 days and counting, and while it has already impacted areas like airport security and national parks, its effects have not been felt too much by those who work outside the public sector.

But that could all be about to change with reports suggesting that the availability of beer and wine could soon be interrupted.

The problem, according to Buzzfeed, is that one of the government bodies currently not operating is the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). They are responsible not just for ensuring that alcohol providers pay their taxes, but also for approving labels for new drinks.

This is a big problem for the U.S.'s flourishing craft beer breweries and wineries. These producers regularly roll out new and seasonal products as well as small-batch runs of popular beers and wines. However, as things stand, any upcoming products they may be developing would have to be abandoned as they cannot get the necessary permissions to sell them.

In 2018, the TTB approved more than 192,000 new drinks. But since December 22, while new applications have continued to roll in, they have been unable to approve any new drinks.

Popularity Of Craft Beers Continues To Grow
Getty Images | Matt Cardy

One craft beer maker, Travis Fritts, who is the co-owner of the Old Nation Brewing Company, explained the extent of the problem. "We're all kind of waiting with a bated breath to see when we'll be able to apply for labeling again," he told Buzzfeed.

"What this does is it doesn't really let us rotate from the winter seasonal to the summer seasonal. There are [large] breweries that are able to plan six or eight months ahead, but most smaller brewers can't."
Most craft brewers and wineries build up a loyal following by regularly releasing new and experimental products to keep customers interested. This business model means that they often only produce small quantities of each product, and once it is gone, it is gone.

While the likes of Budweiser and Coors can produce huge quantities of a single product, for smaller producers it is often not that simple. The inability to produce new products could not only damage their customer-base, but it could see them running out of stocks to sell all together.

Unfortunately for these small producers, the standoff over the shutdown shows no sign of being resolved. President Donald Trump is still demanding $5 billion towards his border wall before he signs off any budget. Meanwhile, the Democrats have refused to budge from the $1.6 billion they had previously negotiated in Congress and during the weekend, new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered to give Trump just $1 towards his wall fund.