Craft beer crisis: Partial government shutdown impacting local breweries

- If you need a cold beer to relieve the stress of the government shutdown, well, you might have a problem. The shutdown is already causing headaches for craft brewers across the country, and they need Uncle Sam’s approval before selling any new beer.

Mikerphone Brewery in Elk Grove Village is one of the thousands of craft breweries that have sprung up around the country over the past decade, including more than 200 in the Chicago area.

However, the gridlock in Washington D.C. is brewing up big trouble.

"We didn't plan for the shutdown,” said Mike Pallen, the owner of Mikerphone Brewery. “We couldn't plan for the shutdown. So the beers that are currently in tanks are in limbo."

Pallen explains every new beer they brew must get label and recipe approval from the federal alcohol and tobacco tax and trade bureau before it can be shipped out of state. It isn’t a big deal for big breweries that have been making the same products and brands for years.

“But for us as a craft brewery, what we specialize in is being nimble and being able to adjust and come up with new products every week,” Pallen said. “But with that means we have to get new labels approved every time."

With the government shutdown, craft brewers have had to put their new beers ticketed for out of state in storage -- some with a very short shelf life.

“Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks,” Pallen said. “So if the government is shut down for a month or two months, we're not in that window. Those beers are dead."

That means thousands of dollars down the drain.

"I mean, in the tens of thousands,” said Kevin Antoon, with Southern Grist Brewing Co. “We're starting to think we may have to dump full batches of beer if it doesn't get approved."

The shutdown may also slow Mikerphone's plans to expand its business because this new taproom slated to open in the spring also needs federal approval.

Will angry beer drinkers put the heat on Washington?

“The craft beer movement has been a big deal,” Pallen said. “I think it's part of some people's daily lives. If you can't get that beer you rely on, you're going to see people get really upset." 

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