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The Government Shutdown Could Lead This Kansas City Brewery To Give Away Beer

The beer canning line at the soon-to-open City Barrel Brewing sits idle during the partial shut down of the federal government.
Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3
The beer canning line at the soon-to-open City Barrel Brewing sits idle during the partial shut down of the federal government.

Even breweries are feeling the pinch of the partial federal government shutdown.  

“The regulating body that we have to submit all of our labels to, to get approved by is shut down,” says James Stutsman, founder of City Barrel Brewing.

Stutsman shared his story on KCUR's Central Standard Wednesday.

He and his partners are opening a brewery and eatery near 17th and Holmes in Kansas City, Missouri. Part of the business, he says, is to sell the beer in cans. “A big part of our portfolio is canned beer to go. Because there’s nothing more beautiful than this” — and here Stutsman makes the sound of a beer can opening — “in your back yard.”

The agency that approves beer can labels is something called the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. For some reason, its acronym is simply TTB.

Stutsman says TTB makes sure the labels on beer cans list the surgeon general's warning and the alcohol content and that the label makes no false claims. It usually takes about three weeks to get approved, he says.

But when you go to the TTB website, this is what it says that "submissions will not be reviewed or approved until appropriations are enacted." TTB says it will tackle the backlog of submissions "once funding has been restored and the government shutdown is over."

Even if the government reopened today, City Barrel Brewing would still be stuck with 500 gallons of unsellable beer, Stutsman says. “The first beer we made is an IPA. IPAs are meant to be drank fresh.” Plus it takes a month to six weeks to get the cans once the label is approved by regulators.

So, what to do?  “I can’t sell it. I can’t package it, so we’re just going to give it away for free.”

Stutsman figures he is out $3,000 to $4,000. “It’s troubling,” he says. “I don’t sleep much.”

The business isn't in peril because of the shutdown. It can still sell food and draught beer. But there is a new appreciation for government workers. “You feel bad," Stutsman says. "But until you actually get stuck in that situation you can’t really empathize as well.”

Sam Zeffis KCUR's metro reporter. You can follow Sam on Twitter @samzeff

Copyright 2020 KCUR 89.3. To see more, visit .

Sam Zeff
Sam grew up in Overland Park and was educated at the University of Kansas. After working in Philadelphia where he covered organized crime, politics and political corruption he moved on to TV news management jobs in Minneapolis and St. Louis. Sam came home in 2013 and covered health care and education at KCPT. He came to work at KCUR in 2014. Sam has a national news and documentary Emmy for an investigation into the federal Bureau of Prisons and how it puts unescorted inmates on Grayhound and Trailways buses to move them to different prisons. Sam has one son and is pretty good in the kitchen.