SHUTDOWN: Minn. breweries may fizz out if stalemate lingers - KMSP-TV

SHUTDOWN: Minn. breweries may fizz out if stalemate lingers

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The federal government shutdown may have Minnesota's microbrew industry feeling a hangover soon because the agency that approves new craft beers has been ruled non-essential.

The news that huge delays could hit brewers across the country is considered one of the biggest buzz-kills because it could stop seasonal ales and other creative craft concoctions from the startups that won't be able to open until the government does again.

"This is my still that I will be using for production," Bartley Blume demonstrated.

Blume is hoping his innovative start-up will be serving up suds soon.

"Distilling is sexy," he said. "There's really cool equipment. It's got a lot of potential. It's just visually stimulating."

He wants to add in a few beer brewers and open what he calls a "brewstillery" with a tap room in the front, but he can't just yet.

"The recipe for the spirits has to be approved by the federal government, and that's where I'm stuck," Blume said.

Blume's momentum may fizzle if the Alcohol and Tobacco, Tax and Trade Bureau --which is responsible for approving new breweries, recipes and labels -- remains shuttered.

The shutdown also poses a potential problem for established brewers who build their business by introducing new and exotic flavors every few months -- but Tony Cayko, with Summit Brewing in St. Paul, says they were lucky to get approval and launch two new beers before the shutdown set in.

"We just received it two days prior to the shutdown of the government," he said.

Even so, founder Mark Stutrud wonders how the industry -- especially smaller brewers -- will fare if the shutdown lingers too long.

"If it extends into several weeks or a few months, literally half or more of the sales we anticipate will be wiped out," he predicted.

Meanwhile, Blume is offering to help with negotiations if it'll help Congress work out a deal.

"If it takes a beer and a shot of whiskey, you know? Let's get it done. I'll supply the whiskey," he said.

Making matters worse for the brewers, the closed agency will still continue to process taxes from existing permit holders while applications remain in limbo.

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