Shutdown a buzzkill for craft distillers with new limited-release spirits

John McDevitt
January 11, 2019 - 12:45 pm
A Manatawny Stillworks tasting room on East Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia.

John McDevitt/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — One of the federal offices closed because of the partial government shutdown is the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. 

Workers approve beer, wine and spirits labels for market. But that process has been corked, and new small-batch releases are not allowed to leave the production facilities. This is causing a stink for breweries and distilleries, such as Manatawny Stillworks craft distillery out of Pottstown.

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Art Etchells is the manager of the distillery's tasting room in South Philly.

"One of my ideas that I haven't floated to our distiller ... is that maybe we re-utilized some of those old releases that we did before," he said. "We did a coffee whiskey with Rival Brothers Coffee. So, we could do that again, because we have the label approval we have to blend the whiskey. But that's not a matter of, like, aging something. So we could bring that back."

The label has been approved already, so they can use it again.

"It was suppose to be a one-off," Etchells said. "But maybe it's a two-off."

The distillery was planning special events for a triple release next month of a whiskey, rum and gin that has been aging in port barrels. But that may not happen, because the government has yet to give them a green light.

He says canceling special events affects business on a variety of levels.

"From getting people in the door and having entertainment, to there's a printer that is not going to be printing any labels, there's boxes that is not getting produced, there's drivers that aren't delivering things — so all of that cascades down," Etchells said.

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