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Beer backlog: Craft-beer producers hit by government shutdown

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Craft-beer enthusiasts waiting for the next great seasonal beer to show up on retail shelves might be waiting for a while.

Due to the partial federal government shutdown, which has been dragging on for three weeks, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, part of the U.S. Treasury Department, is closed.

No bureau means no labels being approved for new beers that a brewer wants to distribute through retail outlets, like bars or beer distributors. The labels aren't being reviewed or approved as long as the shutdown goes on.

However, not all is lost.

Pennsylvania allows breweries to sell new beers directly to consumers from taprooms under what is known as a certificate of label approval. So breweries can still fill up growlers for takeout if those beers are registered with the state.

Still, brewers are feeling the pinch from the shutdown.

"It will disrupt the new and one-off beer distribution through our bar and retail partners, which affects their tap lists, and what consumers can look to try or purchase," said Brandalynn Armstrong, co-owner of Zeroday Brewing Co. in Midtown Harrisburg.

Armstrong said the shutdown has delayed one of the brewery's biggest projects this quarter, which is the release of a beer made through HACC's brewing science program.

The name of the HACC beer is selected in class by a panel of industry judges during the term of the class, she said. So it's not something that can be submitted for review months ahead of time.

"We've had to cancel the second in-class brew scheduled for Jan. 17," she said. "The canning was to occur on Feb. 4 and we are hoping for sometime now in spring."

There are a few other Zeroday projects that will suffer the same fate, Armstrong said. "While it does create an immediate need to amend production schedules and will cause some lost revenues, all in all we still have the ability to make approved, registered beer so we can generate revenues and keep our operations running and our staff paid."

On the other hand, she added, the delay gives breweries additional time to improve on early batches of new beers.

"Lemonade outta these lemons, right?" she said.

At the nearby Millworks, brewmaster Jeff Musselman said he currently has about five new beer labels stuck in limbo because of the shutdown. Other Harrisburg-area breweries also said they are experiencing a few delays.

"It's kinda a bummer," Musselman said. "Hopefully it gets resolved soon."

Pennsylvania produces more craft beer than any other state, with new breweries opening every year.

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Jason Scott

Jason Scott

Jason Scott covers state government, real estate and construction, media and marketing, and Dauphin and Cumberland counties. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at jscott@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @JScottJournal.

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