Government shutdown hitting Colorado breweries hard

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BOULDER, Colo. — The federal shutdown is beginning to have an impact on one of Colorado’s favorite things: craft beer.

Every time a new beer is produced and sold across state lines, the label has to be approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. The agency isn’t working during the shutdown.

“We spend a lot of time developing our new recipes,” says Matt Cutter, the founder of Boulder’s Upslope Brewing Company. “Now, all of that is completely on hold.”

Cutter says Upslope has quickly grown in popularity over the past 10 years.

“We are in seven out-of-state markets, plus Colorado,” says Cutter. “In order to distribute to those states, we’re required to have the Tax and Trade Bureau approve the label.”

Breweries can still sell new beers in the state, but they risk having to re-design the can or bottle when the shutdown ends.

“We don’t want thousands and thousands of cans manufactured, and then the Tax and Trade Bureau comes back and says, ‘You know what, you have to make this one change on the label,'” he says. “Right now, it’s really just wait and see.”

Cutter says the shutdown is already jeopardizing an upcoming release of a new, seasonal beer.

“We’ve told our distributors when those cans are coming out, and now, those schedules are in jeopardy,” he says. “It may happen that we never launch that product at all, because it will bump into the next release series.”

Cutter says it’s still too early to know the financial impact on the brewery.

“What’s the backlog going to be for all these brewers that got in line before you did?” he said.

The shutdown is also impacting breweries looking for permit approvals, like Westminster Brewing Company.

In a Facebook post to customers, the company wrote, “Unfortunately, the circumstances surrounding the current government shutdown has postponed our reopening, as our paperwork is in the approval loop. Although disappointing, we assure you that we will begin brewing and serving great craft beer as soon as the paperwork becomes approved.”

Sen. Michael Bennet sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin earlier this week, calling on him to address the shutdown’s impact on brewers and distillers.

“If the shutdown worsens an already lengthy approval backlog, brewing companies could suffer delays and tens of thousands of dollars of lost revenue… This is just one example of how the president’s decision to shut down the government over an ineffective and wasteful border wall (that Mexico was supposed to pay for) is hurting the economy and the livelihoods of communities across the country,” Bennet wrote.

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