Trouble brewing as government shutdown impacts East Tenn. beer companies

Local News
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Some small businesses in East Tennessee are in limbo as the government shutdown continues to impact various aspects of East Tennessee. 

Stephen Apking owns and works as head brewer at Hexagon Brewing Company in Knoxville. Apking has a taproom, but he also brews beer for distribution around Knox County. While demand is going well, he believes it’s always important to have new tastes to offer.

“Rolling out new products for breweries and all businesses is really a key to success, you know, most people always want that newest, latest and greatest item,” he said. 

Apking planned an array of new products for customers to hit shelves by Valentine’s Day. Because of the shutdown, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau is closed. They regulate breweries, from granting permission for brewing to labels for individual products. 

Apking says the shutdown is impacting his business in two ways. The first is a request filed to allow the brewery to produce higher alcohol blend products, like vodka and fruit, to be sold in cans. That request is on hold along with a two labels for new brews. Apking says the requests were filed in mid-November. 
Because it normally take about six weeks to get an approval, Apking says he’s fearful he won’t reach his goal of distributing the new products by Valentine’s Day.

“With any startup, it’s a struggle. We struggle day to day just to keep the lights on and the doors open, from dealing with day to day business. Now, you’ve got another entity which very much controls your product and they’re not working,” he said. 

Rick Cox is one of five investors in the new venture Next Level Brewing Company coming to Broadway.

“We’re going to bring in the styles that are in the market now that are on the East Coast and West Coast. We want to bring them here early. We don’t want to have to wait for those styles to come here,” he said. 

Cox says  construction ahead and purchasing equipment, but it all requires approval from the TTB before it can open. While their goal is to start pouring locally brewed beer in mid-April, he fears the shutdown could prolong it. 

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