Trouble brewing: Shutdown affects local beer makers

Josh Pfriem of Pfriem Family Brewing.

Photo by Adam Lapierre.
Josh Pfriem of Pfriem Family Brewing.

This time, the federal government has gone too far.

The government shutdown, which has been in place since Oct. 1, has impacted the U.S. in myriad ways. This week, an Associated Press article pointed to an unlikely, yet precious national resource that has fallen victim to the shutdown.


According to the AP story, breweries are starting to run into some serious problems because of the government shutdown, which, as it has with other federal offices, has forced the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, or TTB as it is commonly known, to close its doors. The federal agency, which is an offshoot of the Treasury Department, is responsible for approving new breweries, new labels, and new beers.

For breweries that don’t change their product often, this doesn’t pose much of a problem. However, craft breweries that churn out new batches of seasonal beers on a regular basis, the shutdown of the TTB means they can’t get new brews approved.

For young breweries, like the Belgian-centric pFriem Family Brewers in Hood River, the government shutdown has been particularly worrisome. Owner Josh Pfriem, who is currently attending the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colo., said the shutdown of TTB is a “big topic” amongst brewers at the event.

“This really affects pFriem in a couple of ways,” he explained in an email. “We have no way to submit new seasonals to the TTB, which is a problem for us. Also, we are working towards bottling in the near future which requires a lot of time and work with the TTB. The longer the shutdown goes on the further things get backed up, which creates more problems for breweries to move their companies forward.”

For larger breweries like Full Sail, the slowdown also poses a threat, although Marketing Manager Sandra Evans assured that Full Sail already has its permits approved for upcoming winter beers.

“Luckily, we’ve already planned for that,” she said. “We’re pretty far ahead of the game.”

Though Full Sail staples like its Amber Ale and IPA will remain unaffected, Evans noted that if the government shutdown stretched on for too long, it could impact the release of some upcoming new spring seasonal beers, which Evans said Full Sail did not have approved TTB permits for yet.

According to Evans, Full Sail usually experiences a 10-12 day turnaround for TTB permits.

However, as the shutdown continues, permits from breweries around the country are piling up in the TTB inboxes with nobody there to approve them. When the floodgates finally open — presuming the shutdown does end at some point — the TTB will find itself inundated with permits, causing delays.

How long? Evans wasn’t sure.

“With this backlog, one can only guess,” she said.

“Hopefully (the government shutdown) will resolve itself,” she added.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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