FORT COLLINS - Fort Collins-area brewers preparing to bring new beers to market may have to wait a little longer due to the federal government shutdown.
All new beers that get bottled or canned to be sold across state lines must be approved by an arm of the Treasury Department, which reviews each beer's label and ingredients. But with the shutdown, no new approvals are being granted by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Even the website that tells brewers where they are in the approval process has been shuttered.
The TTB, however, is still collecting the taxes breweries must pay.
The shutdown doesn't affect existing beers, like New Belgium Brewing's popular Fat Tire, or Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser and Shock Top.
But it means New Belgium is still waiting for approval of five new labels and three new beers, including a spring seasonal, Spring Blonde. Brewery spokesman Bryan Simpson said bringing a new beer to market can take up to a year, and the TTB approval process is a big part of that.
"We have a lot of pieces in play, so when things go sideways, that's a problem," he said. "We aren't delayed yet, but there will probably be a backlog. Beers that haven't been approved don't get to market."
Simpson said New Belgium's concern is that a lengthy TTB delay could mean the brewery's current seasonal offerings will end without a spring seasonal to replace them, costing the company sales. Simpson said the brewery is facing having to pay extra to rush labels through the printing process once they're approved, to keep things on track.
"We won't rush the beer," he said.
Odell Brewing has two beers in the temporarily shut TTB pipeline, said brewery spokeswoman Amanda Johnson-King. She said Odell plans well in advance, so the current shutdown won't have a major impact.
Still, it means a wet-hopped beer called Handpicked IPA the brewery had hoped to sell in other states will instead only be available inside the brewery's Fort Collins tasting room. "We have a new beer that we'd like to share with folks, and we can't right now," she said. "Unfortunately, we won't be able to share it with anyone out of state."
The TTB closure doesn't affect breweries like Equinox, which sells only one bottled beer whose label has been previously approved and doesn't change from year to year, said founder Colin Westcott.
"For us, it's just business as normal," he said. "And of course they're continuing to collect taxes."
(Copyright © 2013 Fort Collins Coloradoan, All Rights Reserved)