Talk about a paradigm shift. In just two weeks, life as we know it has been flipped completely on its head. The Coronavirus pandemic has caused a massive reduction in everyday movements for people worldwide. Five states and multiple municipalities have issued “shelter in place” directives that restrict citizens movements to essential tasks and work. This has put tremendous financial pressure on small businesses that depend on on-premise sales of goods and services. Those small businesses include thousands of craft beer breweries around the country, as many have had to shutdown their popular taprooms and sales of kegs to bars and restaurants have come to a screeching halt. The big question on all of our minds is, how are these breweries dealing with this unprecedented situation?
In late 2019, Texas became the last state to allow the sale of packaged beer “To Go” direct from breweries to consumers. Eight states: Delaware, Massachusetts, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Virginia, allow direct shipment of beer to consumers. Here in the state of Georgia, direct beer sales laws for breweries changed for the better back in 2017; allowing consumers to purchase beer from a brewery while onsite. Direct shipment of beer to consumers is still not allowed. Naturally, most breweries have been providing To Go packaged beers for a couple of years now, so they have ramped up their focus in this area. This new focus revolves around such items as beefing up crowler inventories, developing ordering procedures and pickup logistics for consumers, and communicating these same procedures and logistics to consumers.
I recently test drove the new “system” myself over the weekend. I really wanted to support my local breweries, so I chose NoFo Brew Co in Forsyth County. NoFo made things very easy. You have three basic ways to purchase beer from them (crowlers only): 1) place your order and pay via the Craft Cellr app, then pull up curbside and one of their staff will bring your order out to you, 2) text your order to them, then pay the staff member who brings your order out to your vehicle or 3) just pull up curbside and a staff member will take your order and payment, then bring your order out when it’s ready. I chose the second method, texting my order for one crowler ($14) of their Daisy Pass Fruited Saison, then picking up curbside.
Upon my arrival, one of their staff members, Chase, came out to my car with a cheerful smile and greeting to verify my order. He then returned with my order in a bag and processed my payment. Note, they were only taking credit cards – no cash payments. It was quick and easy, and allows for “social distancing” as there was no standing in line.
As for the beer itself, as of today, I have not tried it yet. Until recently, NoFo Brew Co has had a very tasty, drinkable Munich Dunkel on draft and I was hoping to grab that; but they had already run out about a week or two ago. I have not had too many fruited beers, as they are not really my passion in the craft beer world; but I thought I’d give it a whirl. Daisy Pass is a Farmhouse Ale/Saison that has added pomegranate, blueberry, and strawberry. This will be an interesting departure for me, so I can’t wait to give it a try.
I am happy to report that consumers seem to be making the shift to the new paradigm fairly easily. When I picked up my crowler Saturday around noon, I asked Chase how they were holding out. He cheerfully reported that they had sold over 200 crowlers in about 24 hours. I noticed later in the afternoon, NoFo posted on social media that they had run out of crowlers. That’s remarkable given the circumstances. One of the things I like about the craft beer “community” is brewery owners and patrons are very supportive of each other. There is very much a two-way street between the two. As I have noted in some of my earlier blog posts, (see Tucker Brewing Co. – Giving Back To The Community and Get Comfortable with Allagash and Creature Comforts), local breweries are deeply involved in giving back to their communities. It is great to see patrons in their communities helping the breweries out during their time of need.
If you are wondering how you can support your local breweries, restaurants and bars, Untappd has developed a list of those that are offering delivery and pickup services in various communities. To view the up-to-date list go here – Greg’s List – Untappd or download the Untappd app via the Apple App Store or Google Pay. These small businesses depend on us as consumers, so I encourage you to support them where and when you are able. Of course, please follow CDC guidelines to protect yourself if you go out in public. Use common sense and prudence.
Thanks for reading, until next time…Let Us Drink Beer!