So now we know the real victims of the federal shutdown: hipsters and their First Amendment right to put fruit in their beer.
With the impasse over Donald Trump’s border wall already reaching the five-week mark, it turns out that the nation’s craft beer taps are being squeezed because the agency that approves new labels is closed. And even if the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau re-opened tomorrow, the industry is likely to face weeks of delays as it sifts through a backlog of applications for formulae for new beers, as well as permits for breweries.
Cue legal action. Atlas Brew Works is suing the federal government because it says its new apricot-infused seasonal IPA is caught in limbo. Unless it can get a label for its kegs of ‘The Precious One’ it cannot ship them to Maryland, Virginia and Tennessee, potentially costing the company thousands of dollars. The beer is perishable
And because the issue involves labels then, according to the suit, ‘Atlas suffers from a prohibition of its protected First Amendment speech unsupported by any regulatory concerns about that speech…’.
I for one don’t want to see valuable businesses suffering through the shutdown. The impact on jobs and the economy is already too much.
But here’s the thing. Am I the only one who thinks we don’t need more beers? Doesn’t America already have enough fruit-based IPAs? Have you looked at the beer section in your supermarket recently? Things have changed a lot from the days when American beer tasted mostly of water.
The craft beer revolution – apparently led by people who want their beer to have the complexity of wine (my suggestion: Stick to wine) – has given us any number of fruit-flavored ales. Apricot seems old hat when every bar now has an assortment of orange, grapefruit and even pineapple brews. What fruits haven’t been incorporated into Bearded Wonder with Tattoos Oldskool IPA? The foul-smelling Durian, maybe, but I’d wager someone in Brooklyn is already at work on that.
Stout too plain for you? How about a Southern Tier Crème Brûlée Stout? Or for a meatier mouthfeel maybe a Wynkoop Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout?
It all means the position of beer in the barroom ritual has changed. Where once it was no more than lubricant, a facilitator of conversation and camaraderie, today it IS the conversation.
‘Mmm, I’m getting cherries and a hint of vanilla,’ is not the repartee I want in a drinking buddy.
Whatever happened to beer that tasted of, you know, beer?
Even the non-fruit suds taste different, with the new breed of brewers intent on over-hopping their over-strength brews. It’s difficult to spend an evening watching a five-hour baseball game in a sports bar while supping down a beer containing seven percent alcohol or more. I know because I tried, with predictably ugly results. Several times.
Maybe if Atlas Brew Works was about to bring out a ‘session beer’, something milder and coming in closer to three percent, I would feel differently. That seems to be the gap in the market. Imagine a less fizzy Budweiser with a little more flavor, but not so much that it distracts me from the point I am making about the 1986 Mets or Joe Biden’s chances of winning the Democratic nomination or why you just used the word ‘factoid’ incorrectly.
I hope that the shutdown ends soon. I hope that businesses can get back to doing business, making money and generating jobs. It’s just that the world doesn’t need another apricot beer.