CAPITAL REGION — Area breweries are keeping a close eye on the shutdown of the federal government, which has stretched into its third week and has the potential to severely impede business, according to brewers.
In order to package or bottle new beer, breweries in New York state must first receive a certificate of approval for labels and ingredients from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, one of the federal agencies that is affected by the shutdown.
Once a product receives TTB approval, brewers then must submit the product to the New York State Liquor Authority for label approval.
Since the shutdown though, TTB has announced that employees will not report to work until the shutdown has ended, and no permits will be reviewed or approved until that point.
Dan Bronson, general manager at SingleCut Brewing, said the closure of the TTB throws a wrench into the business plans of breweries all over the state seeking to get label approval in the near future.
SingleCut, which has locations in Clifton Park and New York City, recently received approval for a number of labels the company had not yet released, Bronson said.
Those new labels will tide the company over for a few months and allow SingleCut to continue to produce new beers for now, according to Bronson, but breweries that don’t have the backlog of products to rely on could find themselves in trouble sooner than that.
“That’s a major, major problem for small batch brewers,” Bronson said on Monday.
Frog Alley Brewing, a new large-scale brewery in downtown Schenectady, has also continued to brew beer in the wake of the shut down.
Frog Alley has not recently submitted any new labels to TTB, said company spokeswoman Carly Clark, so the company hasn’t felt the pressure that new, smaller operations might feel.
But, Clark acknowledged the shutdown could cause big problems for newer breweries.
“I can see why that would become a problem,” she said on Monday.
Another local brewery, the Hank Hudson Brewery Company in Halfmoon, did not have a comment on the situation.
Staying competitive in the local brewery market is contingent on the freedom to stay creative and release new products, Bronson added.
“Folks in our region have to be able to come up with new beers. We’re blocked from registering and creating new beers,” he said.
Even when the TTB does reopen, there will most likely be a substantial backlog of labels waiting to be stamped, turning what is now a two-week process into one that will go on indefinitely, Bronson added. SingleCut typically dedicates a month’s worth of time to get label approval for a new product, and there is one person on staff dedicated exclusively to navigating the permit process.
To make matters worse, lack of access to permits might push some breweries to release new beers anyway, and be forced to deal with penalties after the TTB has reopened. If the shutdown persists longer than a few months, Bronson said SingleCut would be forced to consider brewing older, already approved recipes.
“There’s a lot riding on it getting open soon, or the whole industry is going to suffer. The industry can’t afford this,” Bronson said.