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COVID-19: The Pivot to Package

Paul Dean, Executive Director of the DC Brewers' Guild, is leading the brewers; response to COVID-19.
Paul Dean, Executive Director of the DC Brewers’ Guild.

There is no question that the spread of COVID-19 has ushered in a new, unprecedented era in the District of Columbia and the DMV. So how does this time affect brewers? DC Beer has been covering this story but, like so many of the answers we seek today, we’ll just have to see what the future holds.

“As for your local breweries, it’s no secret this crisis is having a devastating impact on our businesses,” wrote Paul Dean, DC Brewers’ Guild executive director, in an email to friends of the Guild on Thursday, March 19. “Brewpubs and taprooms have been shut down, employees sent home, and production slowed to a trickle. However, I am pleased to report that many of our breweries are adapting to meet consumer needs and trying to raise some revenue and keep some workers on the payroll by offering carry-out and delivery sales.”

Tap systems adapt to COVID-19

The number of bars and restaurants offering beer to go is growing rapidly. According to ABRA, in the 12 hours following Mayor Muriel Bowser’s guidelines on March 18, “258 DC establishments have registered to sell beer, wine, and spirits for carry-out and/or delivery.” As of March 23, the number of delivering restaurants that will bring you beer/wine/spirits was 568. 

New guidelines will not allow people to drink beer as they did before COVID-19. DC’s Mayor has mandated that people not drink in bars and restaurants, which means that many tap and draft lines are unused. This is of course not unique to DC, and if you have to close your draft system(s), there are a few resources on how to do so.

Jace Gonnerman, beverage director at Meridian Pint, Smoke & Barrel, and Brookland Pint, says he thinks that beer sales to go will be restaurant, bar, and brewery specific. “Depends on the store. We barely have any package [bottles and cans] and a keg box full of purchased kegs to clear through,” so it’s no wonder his restaurant group is offering growlers to go.

Comparatively, Bluejacket is canning a ton of beer. They started can deliveries last week in addition to meals to go. In theory, they could do more can sales than ever before.

Amber Pfau, chief strategy officer at Neighborhood Restaurant Group, writes, “we are canning much more now as it is our primary vehicle to get beer into our guests’ hands. We have had an overwhelmingly positive response to our delivery offering at Bluejacket, and we are so happy that people are enjoying our beer while also supporting our staff during this challenging time!”

I certainly bought more of their cans than I have ever before. And if I had a kegerator or draft system at home I’d be buying a keg in Brookland. Or a cask, if there were more than just two people drinking beer in my apartment.

As for what I’ve already done, I bought a mixed case and a half from the Craft Beer Cellar’s delivery service (ordered DC Brau, Duvel, ‘Gansett, and Port City). I then ordered Bluejacket delivery and then ordered three cases of ANXO cider and some bottles. 

So, what to do? Stay the fuck home and order delivery from your local brewer, cider maker, or restaurant that is lucky enough to still be in business. 

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