City Barrel to Washington: Free Beer

James Stutsan's new canning machine at City Barrel Brewing can produce 40 cans per minute, trouble is, he can't get his labels approved because of the government shutdown.

Kevin Collison

When life hands you 500 gallons of IPA you can’t sell thanks to the sour mashup in Washington, what’s an aspiring Crossroads brewmeister to do?

You tap that time-tested crowd pleaser, free beer.

And while you’re at it, you offer a special invite to the party to all those furloughed federal employees sidelined by the politicians ongoing intransigence.

James Stutson of City Barrel Brewing Co. had invested $100,000 to buy equipment to can his product for the upcoming opening of his new brewpub at 1728 Holmes in the East Crossroads.

He managed to get one label approved, a double-dry hopped blonde ale called ‘816,’ but than things went flat in the 202 area code aka Washington D.C.

Stutson wound up getting stuck with a big tankful of a New England IPA brew he wants to call ‘Rad AF’ and nobody home at the Federal Tax and Tobacco Bureau to approve the label.

“We started brewing so we could can and build up a stock for our opening,” Stutson said, “but since the label’s not approved, we can’t can.

“Instead of going old and getting bad, I decided to hold a private event.”

And since it was the federal shut down that’s preventing him from getting the labels approved, Stutsman decided to raise the spirits of sidelined federal workers.

He allotted a share of the 300 free tickets distributed by a lottery for the Jan. 22 party to the government employees impacted and will let them inside the brewpub an hour before the party officially starts.

“It was kind of a perfect scenario,” Stutsman said.

The interior of the new City Barrel Brewing is nearing completion for the planned Feb. 22 opening.

“I’m affected because I can’t sell cans. While it’s frustrating for me, it’s not the end of the world. But for them, they’re missing paychecks.

“It’s a little thing for me to do. I’m a firm believer that beer unites us all.”

The Rad AF is one of four beers that City Barrel is planning to sell in cans. With 816 in the clear, the other two beers hanging are a sour-rosé called ‘Classy’ and ‘Formal Attire,’ another New England IPA.

Stutsman said offering craft beer in cans is part of a growing trend. For example, Boulevard Brewing opened a $10 million canning facility last year.

“Cans are how consumers want to drink,” he said. “They’re more flexible because they’re lighter, easier to package and recyclable.

“It gives us more opportunities to give consumers what they want.”

That is, once Washington stops foaming.

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