COLUMBIA, S.C. — The effects of the federal government shutdown are beginning to trickle down to the local level in many ways, including the local craft beer and distillery industry.
The US Treasury Department, through the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), regulates wineries, distilleries and breweries by approving any new equipment, and labels for new lines of beer, wine or distilled products (ie, seasonal beers and limited run alcoholic products).
Local breweries and distilleries are fine if they have pre-approved recipes and labels on file with the TTB but John Sharpe, at Southern Essence Distillery in Cayce, says that if he wanted to register or distribute a new recipe – for instance, a limited run, orange flavor-forward product to celebrate Clemson’s National Championship – that’s not going to happen.
Under normal circumstances approval for a new recipe or new product label only takes a few days, two weeks at most.
Over at Columbia Craft Brewing Company on Greene Street, brewmaster Shaun Piggott said brewery can sell their approved beers in the tasting room but the brewery can’t send out any new beers for distribution -- or to special events -- because of unapproved labels. The labels must be approved by the TTB so that the state of South Carolina can collect taxes on the products.
While Columbia Craft is in pretty good shape, Piggott does have some concerns.
Anyone attempting to get a brewer’s notice to establish a new craft brewery might be facing a long waiting period. Piggott said that the normal process to get the documents needed for a new craft brew business usually takes 160 days. Depending on how long the shutdown continues, and the backload of filings, the process could stretch to a year.
Then there’s the upcoming World of Beer Festival in February.
Held at the State Fairgrounds, this large craft beer festival usually is a showcase for new releases and serves as the kick-off event for craft beer season in the Midlands. The event has 26 craft breweries and four cideries lined up to participate, and will feature the best of Belgium beers.