First Amendment

Atlas Brew Works' Beer Is About To Go Bad Thanks to the Shutdown

The bureaucracy-beleagured beermakers are suing the feds.

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Atlas Brew Works

Atlas Brew Works, based in Washington, D.C., wants to sell 40 kegs of its "The Precious One" craft beer while it is still fresh, some of them across state lines. The federal government, in a policy that should always have been constitutionally questionable, insists it must pre-approve any beer label that enters interstate commerce under the certificate of label approval (COLA) rule contained in the Federal Alcohol Administration Act.

Thanks to the ongoing federal government shutdown, the Treasury Department's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) is not processing or issuing such approvals. Atlas applied for approval for the keg labels for its apricot-infused seasonal IPA on December 20, but two days later, before the TTB took action, its funding ran out and it ceased issuing approvals, or COLAs.

Atlas sells its beers in both cans and kegs, and the TTB had already approved the label for the cans, but not yet for the kegs. Not being able to sell those kegs will cost the brewery at least $5,000, it claims, as the beer is perishable, with the costs increasing the longer the COLA threat hangs over its head with no legal means of getting label approvals for that beer and other beers it wants to sell. It can sell the beer in D.C. itself, but claims that there is no reasonable chance it can sell all of it there before some of it goes bad.

The Atlas Brew Works company is suing in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, seeking a temporary restraining order against the government enforcing the COLA rule against it.

As the motion for the restraining order argues, "Americans' fundamental right to free speech requires no Congressional authorization. The government can shut down free speech regulators. It cannot shut down the First Amendment."

Its beer labels are "a form of expression protected by the First Amendment" it insists, and cites previous cases in a separate complaint document in the case of Atlas Brew Works v. Whitaker that support this contention.

The filings, from civil rights lawyer Alan Gura who has succeeded in winning various prominent First and Second Amendment cases, say it should be obvious that "the government cannot simply prohibit beer labels as a category of speech…. Atlas and its customers are suffering irreparable harm in that the government violates their First Amendment rights every moment that Atlas is not free to label its products…. The government cannot require Atlas to obtain a license in order to speak—a license aggressively reviewed for content under rules mandating some statements and forbidding others…and then shutter the licensing office indefinitely."

Atlas should thus be able to sell its labeled beer without running the risk of misdemeanor prosecution, the suit argues.

Elsewhere in Reason: Eric Boehm wrote earlier this month on how the vital process of getting fine beers to a thirsty public during the shutdown was being unnecessarily halted by this ultimately unnecessary policy.

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  1. I’m sure biznesses going under now will use the shutdown as an excuse.

    in 1991 when the Gulf War started, local art galleries that went kaput said customers are staying away because of GHWBush.

    1. Atlas’s beer is okay but not great. DC Brau tends to beat them out consistently and there are tons of other breweries around with more springing up. The craft beer market is fully saturated at this point.

      This is an ad campaign for them.

      With that said, they shouldn’t have to wait on some pointless label approval before they can sell their beer.

      1. The local brewers also say the market is saturated. I guess it takes business smarts as well as a good product to make it.

  2. The federal government, in a policy that should always have been constitutionally questionable…

    Maybe now would be a good time to revisit it. Apparently the federal courts aren’t shut down.

    1. Fine, if all it is you people want from me is jokes:

      More like Atlas chugged, and I right, people? They need to go gulp.

  3. So Atlas Brew Works isn’t taking this shutdown seriously either.

  4. Atlas Brew Works, based in Washington, D.C., wants to sell 40 kegs of its “The Precious One” craft beer while it is still fresh, some of them across state lines. The federal government, in a policy that should always have been constitutionally questionable, insists it must pre-approve any beer label that enters interstate commerce under the certificate of label approval (COLA) rule contained in the Federal Alcohol Administration Act.

    You need our approval to use our roads to sell the goods we allow you to make.

  5. Can’t sell your apricot-infused seasonal IPA?
    Probably for the best.

      1. ^This ….

      1. … but not This. This is a step too far.

        1. The line must be drawn here. This far, no further.

  6. Apricot infused IPA????

    Jesus wept.

  7. They should probably add a disclaimer to their chosen labeling “this does not conform to ….” just to obviate one argument that might be used against them.

  8. Any beer infused with fruit is not beer

    1. Hops, being the seed bearing structure of a flowering plant, are fruit.

      1. Specifically not. The part of hops used for brewing is a flower. When pollinated, they will bear fruit the same way an apple tree does. However, seeds are undesirable for fermentation and production fields are unisex.

        1. So apricot blossom infused beer is ok, but not apricot infused, I can live with that.

        2. “The part of hops used for brewing is a flower.”

          Which makes them a fruit.

          https://www.herbs2000.com/herbs/herbs_hops.htm

          1. Man, get a load of all this virtue signaling.

          2. Which makes them a fruit.

            No. Just the same way an apple (or cherry or strawberry or raspberry or blueberry or peach or orange…) blossom is not an apple fruit, a hops blossom is not hops fruit. Plant an apple fruit and an apple tree can/will grow. Plant an apple blossom and no apple tree will ever grow. Plant a hops flower and no hops will grow. Plant a hops fruit and hops can/will grow.

            A potato is closer to being a fruit than the hops used for brewing and your link is terribly broken.

      2. Any fruit that is not of the genus humulus, works well then.

  9. lets try this again

    any beer infused with fruit is not beer

    1. It’s my beer of choice.

      I’m also one of those drinkers who would choose mead over Bud Light anytime.

      1. Much like the Gilded Age robber barons would trade it all for an iPhone, ancient kings in the age of mead would give up their thrones and tankards to live under a 21st century underpass and drink 24oz cans of smooth, cold crisp, refreshing Bud Light.

        1. Didn’t know you were also into urine therapy.

    2. I will buy Sam Adams Cherry Wheat whenever I find it. I also like 21st Amendment’s Hell or High Watermelon but don’t buy that for the house. That said, I don’t care for orange beers like Blue Moon and the like and no thank you Linenkugel Summer Shandy.

  10. Atlas Brew Works, based in Washington, D.C.

    I’m sure they’re based in D.C. to slake the thirst of all the rugged individualists and parched-throated libertarians. I’ll shed a tear into my beer tonight over their inability to peddle their wares in Washington boo-fucking-hoo D.C.

  11. Marijuana producers would also like to sell a mind altering drug if the feds would finally get around to approving the proper paperwork and let them pay the marijuana tax.

  12. Government should not be involved in any private enterprise except to make sure that trade deals are made and upheld.

  13. Un-approved beer labels will KILL us all, if we don’t watch out!!!!

    Scienfoology Song? GAWD = Government Almighty’s Wrath Delivers

    Government loves me, This I know,
    For the Government tells me so,
    Little ones to GAWD belong,
    We are weak, but GAWD is strong!
    Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
    Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
    Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
    My Nannies tell me so!

    GAWD does love me, yes indeed,
    Keeps me safe, and gives me feed,
    Shelters me from bad drugs and weed,
    And gives me all that I might need!
    Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
    Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
    Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
    My Nannies tell me so!

    DEA, CIA, KGB,
    Our protectors, they will be,
    FBI, TSA, and FDA,
    With us, astride us, in every way!
    Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
    Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
    Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
    My Nannies tell me so!

  14. Beer is bad for you and is a gateway drug to whiskey and other hi potency alcohols.

    The repeal of the 18th Amendment, was a blight on our nation, and gave a nod and wink to the public that it was ok to drink and get rowdy.

    1. …and have an economy, and jobs instead of prison cells. A lot of work has gone into conditioning people to imagine that prohibition enforcement, The Crash, and The Great Depression coexisted by pure chance and coincidence, with no causal nexus whatsoever. Folks in Florida imagine that snowbird has always meant “vacationing yankee.” But in F Scott Fitzgerald stories and general twenties slang in England and These States, it meant something entirely different.

  15. A favorable outcome for Atlas Brew Works will be a positive development of the shutdown, for them and for others. For all of us. Thank you Donald Trump.

  16. I distinctly recall finding an ad for an Atlas brewery located in Chicago in a 1920s newspaper. It was still legal to produce wort, and near-beer despite prohibition. I wish these DC folks success. Indeed, if it flies this would yield a handy precedent for coming back to the meaning of second amendment rights versus infringements.

  17. Maybe just sell it without a label?
    Wheres the innovative American spirit here?
    “based in Washington, D.C.”
    Oh.
    Nevermind.

  18. “Atlas Brew Works’ Beer Is About To Go Bad Thanks to the Shutdown”

    Nope.
    Thanks for idiotic government regulations.

  19. Forget the feds. If you have a customer, sell your beer.

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  21. Live by crony-capitalism, die by crony-capitalism.

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  23. So use an old lbel or a generic one. Or sell it as animal feed.

  24. It would seem to me that if the law requires certification by the government but the government is incapable of certifying that that should automatically annul the law until the government is capable of issuing certifications again.

    That would be the ‘freedom-maximizing’ way to go about regulating. Which, of course, is why its not done.

    1. Oh, and Doherty – its not because the the fucking shutdown man. Its because of the existence of an irrelevant agency. As your article points out.

      C’mon, you guys are supposed to be media-savvy. That means understanding how headlines work.

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