Beer drinkers beware: Government shutdown impacts RI breweries

Blackstone Valley

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — With the partial government shutdown in its 19th day, Rhode Island brewers are feeling the impacts.

With the Alcohol and Tobacco, Trade and Tax Bureau (TTB) closed because of the shutdown, breweries that distribute their beers (as opposed to selling on premises direct to consumers) can’t receive approval on labels, formulas and permits necessary to begin production on new brews.

According to the Rhode Island Brewers Guild, the shutdown will not affect existing beers or those already approved for distribution, and breweries who sell only on premises are still able to do so.

The TTB closure has affected at least two breweries in Pawtucket.

Nick Garrison, president and founder of Foolproof Brewing Company, said they distribute to all of New England, plus Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He said there are three labels currently pending federal approval, which can’t be completed until the TTB is up and running.

“It needs a UPC [universal product code] on it, it needs to say ‘beer’ or ‘ale’ somewhere on the label, and it needs to show the location that the product was manufactured,” Garrison explained.

Smug Brewing has two new labels that co-owner and brewer Rob DaRosa is anxious to share.

“We have our Russian Imperial Stout and our Blackberry Sour,” DaRosa said. “We wanted to get them out within the next three weeks, but that’s probably not going to happen because of the shutdown.”

Garrison said he’s also nervous about getting a timely approval once the government reopens.

“You just have these applications piling up on somebody’s desk. With 7,000 breweries operating in the U.S., you can imagine that number is quite high,” Garrison said.

Another impact of the shutdown affects new breweries planning to open.

The Rhode Island Brewers Guild said new breweries must be licensed federally, as well as state and often local levels. Due to the shutdown, federal license applications will not be processed.

There are five breweries planning to open in Rhode Island, but none of them will be able to get their federal license until the shutdown is resolved, according to the Brewers Guild.

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