Shipments Of New Lagunitas Beers Halted By Government Shutdown

PETALUMA (KPIX 5) – The National Parks closure is one thing, but did you realize that the government shutdown could even be preventing furloughed workers form drowning their sorrows?

One look at the employee lounge at the Lagunitas Brewery in Petaluma reveals its irreverent hippie roots. But a look at the brewing operation itself shows how successful the business has become, shipping 400,000 barrels a year to major retailers nationwide.

“For craft beer, a lot of the volume and a lot of the interest of it is coming out with different seasonal products,” said Todd Stevenson of Lagunitas Brewing Company.

For example ‘Brown Shugga’, is really popular but it’s very difficult to brew, so the company created an alternative formula that they jokingly named ‘Lagunitas Sucks’…which became an even bigger seller. The fact is, seasonal varietals and clever labels can be the keys to success for craft brewers.

And now for the buzz-kill: There is an obscure arm of the Treasury Department called the Tax and Trade Bureau that licenses breweries and their labeling. As you can imagine, these days nobody’s at work. As a result, Lagunitas can’t produce their Hairy Eyeball brand in a larger bottle like they’ve promised retailers, simply because they can’t get the label changed to say “22 ounces”.

“If you’re a Safeway, for example, and you’re expecting a product to come and it’s not coming, then there’s a hole on the shelf and they start to get like, ‘where is the product?’” said Stevenson, who said retailers could find someone else to fill the shelves. “So yeah, it’s a pain in the butt.”

It’s one more example of how the bar fight going on in Washington is affecting people in unexpected ways.

“It’s one of those little things that could be easily swept under the radar. But enough of these little things, all added together…it has an impact,” said Stevenson.

And Congress should probably be careful about letting this one drag on. The last time they prohibited alcohol, it didn’t work out so well.

The Petaluma brewery says it’s being hurt by the shutdown because it is big enough to ship nationwide. Smaller breweries that don’t sell out of state don’t need federal approval for their labeling.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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