Bottoms Up: Shutdown stalls craft beer industry

SEATTLE -- Foaming at the mouth over the federal shutdown? You're not alone.

Craft brewers are the latest in a string of industries hit hard by the government shutdown, after an obscure federal agency shut its doors and stopped issuing permits for new breweries, labels, and recipes.

"Completely frustrated," said Steve Acord, owner and head brewer at Dirty Bucket Brewing Company in Woodinville. "I just launched my first label and this happened."

Acord stands to lose several thousand dollars from his wildly popular Filthy Hoppin' IPA, the first of the beers in his fledgling brewery that he wanted to put in cans. After brewing the concoction, he sent the label off to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, or TTB, for approval, only to realize the agency, like others, was closed.

"I didn't even think of the government shutdown when I went (to check our status) online. I was just excited about the project," he said. "When I logged on, it had given me the 'so sorry, there's no funds to pay for this part of the government' message."

"I thought maybe it was just the website that was down," he added, "but then (thought), 'okay, this is really going to affect what we're trying to do here.'"

"One could think of this shutdown as basically stopping business indefinitely for anyone who didn't have certain paperwork in place back in mid-August," said Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association, in an interview with the Associated Press.

Big brewers, such as Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors, likely won't feel much of an impact, but smaller brewers, like Acord's, face a bigger problem, relying on small batches and seasonal brews to gain new customers and revenue.

"The harmful impact the government shutdown is having on our local brewers highlights why it is so important that Congress act immediately," said Rep. Susan Del Bene (D - WA) in a statement. "Our small businesses deserve better than this. It's time for House leadership to allow an up-or-down vote on a clean budget bill that would re-open the government and end this painful shutdown. Congress must stop creating these self-inflicted wounds to our economy."

"We wanted to reach a wider audience with our beers," Acord said. "If something like this happens, it just comes to a complete stop."

In the interim, he's put his IPA into kegs, which he will sell wholesale for a smaller profit, hoping the shutdown doesn't last much longer.

"I understand that everybody has their own ideas. That's what makes this country great," Acord said. "I'm not sure if they're taking a look at everything this is affecting. For me it's a can of beer, but for a family that lost a soldier, it's death benefits. So it seems trivial - my problem."