KENT, Wash. -- The latest batch of beer is just about ready to take flight at Kent’s Airways Brewing. The politics in the nation’s capitol, however, could keep it grounded.
“This beer is gonna be parked for a while,” said Head Brewer Alex Dittmar, as he sampled the brew on Friday.
The beer will remain in the huge fermentation tank for the time being because Dittmar can't get the labels for his latest brew approved. The government agency that oversees the labeling of America’s alcohol is currently shut down, along with all other “non-essential” services during the government shutdown.
Without those mandatory labels, Dittmar can't bottle and sell his beer. So, for now it sits, potentially stopping production entirely if the shut down drags on.
“It’s simple,” he said. “If the product isn't out there and people aren't buying it, we don't make money.”
And it isn’t just beer. Any wines, beers or spirits in need of new or updated labels are being delayed while lawmakers languish. It usually takes about a month for labels to be approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Producers who applied for labels for a new vintage of wine or a seasonal beer well before the current shutdown are now fearing the consequences.
“It’s bad for business and it’s bad for America,” said Brian Countryman, owner of Woodinville’s Celaeno Winery.
Hundreds of cases of the company’s wine are waiting to be shipped to market, but they can’t go anywhere without the government approved label. Countryman says the government is putting small business over a barrel.
“Stop holding us hostage,” he said.
The shutdown is also delaying requests from small businesspeople hoping to open a new brewery, winery or distillery.
On Thursday night at the brewery, Alex Dittmar tried to simply check the status of his label, but the government website that tracks such applications was shut down as well.
“It's like, why do I pay my taxes?” He wondered aloud. “I would happily buy every one of those guys in Washington a beer if they would just work things out.”