The Beer Industry Turns To Community And Creativity In The Face Of Coronavirus

The craft beer community across the globe is reeling as concerns and restrictions surrounding the coronavirus pandemic have grown. Businesses feel the acute pinch of forced closures, and the more than 8,000 breweries in the USA—some born from the ashes of the 2008 financial crisis—are now struggling to adapt.

In states where it’s permitted, such as Florida and Ohio, breweries have launched to-go sales and pre-order capabilities with curbside pickup. Others are delivering directly to their consumers during the pandemic.

“When our bars and restaurants were told to cease pouring beers, our customers asked, ‘How can we support you?’” says Tomme Arthur, cofounder of The Lost Abbey in San Marcos, CA. “In looking for solutions, it became obvious that we had to take the beer to them.

“Is this easy? The answer is things worth doing rarely are. Is there anything better than having the owner of a company you love knock on the door with cold fresh beer? I think not,” says Arthur.

Breweries like Rockwell Beer Co. in Missouri and others are adapting to evolving circumstances by changing what they brew. Rather than making styles with quick turnaround times in fermenters like India pale ales, brewers can begin mashing in lagers or imperial stouts that require weeks or more in tanks or barrels. This means breweries can continue to operate and be ready to serve their communities when the restrictions lift.

This is especially pertinent in states like New York, where breweries have been deemed “essential” businesses and can keep on a skeleton crew. But in states where breweries do not have that designation, the work must begin now to empty any tanks of existing beer, and to properly close draft lines and other essential systems.

Larger breweries with big distribution networks are better positioned for ongoing sales because of their volume and ability to stock store shelves. Off-premise accounts like liquor stores and groceries are reporting near-record alcohol sales numbers.

Larry Bell, founder of Michigan’s Bell’s Brewery, notes how consumers are stocking up on familiar favorites to help pass the time. This led Bell’s to release Oberon Ale, its summer wheat ale, early. The beer usually debuts at Bell’s annual Oberon Day festivities, which will be held virtually this year.