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Government shutdown holds up local brewery expansion

Revelation, Brick Works permits on hold
January 11, 2019

As the federal government shutdown nears its third week, it might be enough to drive some to drink. But the ones brewing the drinks say the shutdown will affect their brewing operations in 2019.

One of the agencies closed by the shutdown is the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, also known as TTB, which regulates the sale of alcohol, tobacco, gasoline and firearms. Two key functions of TTB are processing brewer permit applications and approving the labeling of beer for sale out of state.

Dogfish Head spokeswoman Heather Kenton said, “Dogfish is on schedule to launch all beers as planned.” But Patrick Staggs, president of Revelation Brewing in Rehoboth Beach, said until their brewer permit is processed, they cannot open their new brewing operation in Georgetown at the former 16 Mile, where the company plans to expand its production capacity.

Eric Williams, owner of Mispillion River Brewing in Milford, faces three negative repercussions of the shutdown.

First is distribution. Mispillion distributes its beers to other states such as Maryland, Virginia and Ohio. Williams said to sell beer out of state, Mispillion has to register its brands and labels. Mispillion is set to release its Threat Level Purple beer Saturday, Jan. 19, at its Milford tasting room before canning and selling it to retailers. But without label approval, it can’t be sold outside Delaware. Williams said there has been interest from distributors in Ohio to sell another upcoming Mispillion beer, War Badger, but without federal approvals, it cannot be shipped out.

Another area affecting Williams’ business is recipe approval. This only affects beers that have not previously been brewed, so beers like Mispillion’s Reach Around IPA or Dogfish’s 60 Minute IPA are not affected. Mispillion is planning to brew an updated version of its War Llama, a Berliner-Sour beer. Williams said the beer will have a modified recipe, which requires resubmitting the recipe to TTB. He said he can fill out the paperwork for the beer online - a recipe application primarily requires the brewer to accurately describe what the beer is and that it meets certain conditions - but there is no one around to process it.

Williams is also planning to open a new brewing venture in 2019: a second Brick Works restaurant in Long Neck, with new beers brewed on-site. Williams said he and his partners have submitted applications with TTB, but with no one there to look at them, the opening date of Brick Works, planned for March, could be delayed. With thousands of dollars tied up in brewing equipment, Williams said they would be losing money every day they do not have permits to brew.

“That could really hurt,” he said.

“It’s difficult to stay alive in this business,” Williams added. “These hiccups are taken very seriously.”