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Federal government shutdown stalls release of local beers

SPOKANE, Wash. - The federal government shutdown has brought with it bad news for beer drinkers and some brewers in Spokane. 

The Grain Shed opened last June in Spokane's Perry District and offers bread and beer made with ingredients that all come from within 100 miles of Spokane, according to co-owner Teddy Benson. 

Benson is one of the brewers behind the eight beers on tap at the business. Now, he's ready to start canning those brews. 

He said all the cans and labels are created, but the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) still has to approve the labels. 

The federal agency reviews them for things like alcohol content and how much fluid is in the bottle. The bureau is closed right now as the country's longest government shutdown continues. 

According to the TTB website, submissions won't be reviewed or approved until appropriations are enacted. That money will come after a deal on Capitol Hill. 

President Donald Trump is demanding more than $5 billion dollars to pay for a wall along the U.S./Mexico border. That's something democratic leaders say won't happen on their watch. 

Meantime, 800,000 federal workers are caught in the crossfire, according to ABC News. Many have been working weeks without pay, while others are furloughed. 

Benson said he doesn't want to draw attention away from their struggles, but wants people to know that there are other local impacts to the shutdown. 

"We had good momentum and we don't want to stop," Benson said. 

The Grain Shed isn't alone in this struggle. According to a report by National Public Radio, as of December 21, the TTB received more than 192,000 label applications since the start of last year. 

Now, many of those applicants, including Benson, are left in limbo. 

"Having everything ready, but then being caught and not being able to do that because conditions totally outside of our control is frustrating," Benson said. 

This isn't just impacting the brewery's bottom line. Benson said because the Grain Shed relies on only local ingredients, it's hurting other community members, too. 

"Things that impact us impact our farmers, impact our producers, impact everybody through the chain. It's not just us," Benson said. 

Plus, the delay prevents new beer from filling store shelves. 

Henry Buckhalter, who is a Grain Shed baker and enjoys the beer there, said he's disappointed to see controversy on Capitol Hill impacting small businesses. 

"It's unfortunate that small business is being hindered by the fact the government can't figure out what's going on," Buckhalter said. "Spokane has such a huge community and it would be great to reach all of those people."

Benson said despite the bottleneck, he's excited to start canning, whenever that day comes. 

"Now we're hoping for the beginning of March, if not later," Benson said. 


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