Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Bad news breweries: Some craft beverage releases sidelined by government shutdown

Earth Fare will sell a variety of beers, include local ales from brewers such as the Virginia Beer Co. (WYDaily/Bryan DeVasher)
Earth Fare sells a variety of beers, include local ales from brewers such as the Virginia Beer Co. (WYDaily/Bryan DeVasher)

From fermentation, to tap, to table, many adult Americans enjoy a fresh beer, wine, mead or other malt beverage from time to time.

With craft beverages becoming ever more popular — and more frequently seen in stores — many brewing operations are releasing new drinks on a weekly or monthly basis.

But because of the partial government shutdown, some of those new brews are getting sidelined.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau is shut down, meaning the process for approving alcohol can and bottle labels and formulas has stalled. Beers, wines, liquors and other alcoholic beverages need to get their labels federally approved if they are going to be sold across state lines.

Those approvals require certain formatting for the health warning, a general description of the alcohol inside, and more.

Many Greater Williamsburg breweries dodged a bullet — they either received label approval before the shutdown or don’t have any new products coming out — but one business, the Silver Hand Meadery on Monticello Avenue in Williamsburg, said the release of two meads has been delayed because of the shutdown.

“So we’ve got a couple new ones we’re working on, but we can’t do anything with them,” Silver Hand Meadery owner Glenn Lavender said Monday.

In addition to its label, the TTB also needs to approve Silver Hand’s formulas. The TTB requires recipes to be submitted for approval if they contain unique ingredients. Because Silver Hand Meadery is licensed as a winery, and it uses more than just grapes to create its product, a majority of the formulas need to be approved.

Lavender said the formulas would likely be under review at this point if the government had not been shut down.

On Tuesday, the federal government partial shutdown entered it 25th day. It stems from President Donald Trump’s demand for Congress to include a Mexico border wall in a border security budget.

Lavender said many formulas require a “back and forth” between the meadery and TTB before they receive final approval.

Lavender added that the shutdown has another potential impact: Federal workers are not receiving paychecks, and therefore not coming into the meadery for tastings.

“If it’s impacting us, that would probably be more painful than label approvals,” Lavender said.

Other area breweries and distilleries got lucky with their formulas and label approvals.

Virginia Beer Co., Alewerks Brewing Co., and Copper Fox Distillery all submitted their labels and received approval before the shutdown.

Virginia Beer Co. has a new beer, Night Shades triple black IPA, set for release Jan. 19. That label has already been approved.

Alewerks has two releases planned for February, Bitter Valentine double IPA and Bitterest Valentine double IPA. Those will both be sold in 16-ounce cans and four-packs.

“Fortunately, we’d planned pretty far ahead, so we don’t expect it to impact us yet,” said Michael Claar, Alewerks operations director.

Alewerks still has some backup plans, such as an alternate release schedule, just in case, Claar said.

Precarious Brewing Project, Billsburg Brewery and Brass Cannon Brewing don’t sell their products out of state, and have not needed to get federal label approval for any recent products, brewery managers and owners said.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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