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Government shutdown preventing breweries from releasing new beers

Posted at 5:48 PM, Jan 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-25 01:40:05-05

For some breweries, the ongoing government shutdown could be worse than a beer with too much foam.

Several new projects at Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. and Santa Maria Brewing Co. are currently on hold until lawmakers can finally make a compromise.

“So this would be nice and all full of aromas of beer being brewed, all the nice hop aromas and the malt coming off the ladder ton and the noise of all the bottles going through the bottle filler, the kegs being filled, a whole cacophony of music that I miss now,” described Dan Hilker, Santa Maria Brewing Co. Brewmaster, as he showed off the brewery’s production room in Santa Maria.

Hilker says the government shutdown is leaving them unable to produce new beers out of this facility, as everything has to go through the Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which governs federal laws for alcohol production.

“They’re responsible for any new beer that we make, that we have to get a label approval on. They give the blessing on whether the label is approved or not. So if we have a beer sitting in a tank that we have a new label to get approved, it stays there. We can’t sell it,” Hilker explained.

Santa Maria Brewing Co.’s new location in Atascadero is also now on hold without the TTB.

“We have close to 30 employees that are waiting to start and get jobs in Atascadero that are sitting on the sidelines, doing nothing because we are waiting to get approval for them to work,” Hilker explained.

Over at Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. in Buellton, they’re seeing the impacts of the shutdown, as well.

“So this year we planned on coming out with nine new packages, three coming out this quarter, or at least we hoped to. Now with those on hold, the distributors aren’t getting those products and in turn, the consumer and retailer aren’t getting the product either. So it’s not just the craft brewer that’s affected, but it’s the wholesaler and the retailer,” said Jaime Dietenhofer, President and CEO of Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company.

Dietenhofer says the ripple effects could last months after the government resumes.

“Right now, our projects are really held back three months because we’ve been waiting for this approval all the way into the end of last year. So you need a lot of lead time to prepare for new products and you can’t just turn on a dime and unfortunately, even when the government reopens, there’s going to be some lag time until we get back to normal,” he said.

Beers that are already in production at these locations are still being made but it’s unknown at this time when the public will be able to see the new creations they are brewing up.