Court TOTALLY WRONG about why beer skunks… and it dismissed that Atlas lawsuit over TTB not processing COLAs during government shutdown.
Let’s start with a matter of science and not the thoroughly drafted opinion denying the Atlas Brew Works challenge to the TTB’s refusal to approve COLAs during the government shutdown (link to our piece on why the case was important and why you should thank Atlas for bringing it).
The opinion opens its ending paragraph with “[a]s the passage of time can skunk a beer, so too can it spoil a lawsuit.” Just to be clear – it is ultraviolet light that skunks a beer, not the passage of time. (Here’s a link to a Vinepair article for the assist.) The process can actually happen rather rapidly, so the use of skunking in a time simile is off the mark.
Apart from that… it’s a shame the court didn’t hint at which way it was leaning. The court dismissed the case because it was moot rather than decide the Atlas First Amendment challenge to the enforcement of shipping beer in interstate commerce without a COLA during the government shutdown on account of the TTB’s refusal to review and approve COLAs during that time.
Basically, the court found that similar circumstances were likely to arise for Atlas so there was no point in continuing on to decide the question – but, of course, we’d disagree and argue that this is a matter of vital policy for the 7,000 plus US breweries (let alone the myriad of wineries, distilleries and importers) all clamoring and needing label approval during a future shutdown.
You can read the full opinion from the district court here – replete with gems like calling beer the country’s “most treasured libation” and “[t]he TTB’s closure put Atlas over a barrel.”