Exploring Craft Beer and Homebrew in Peru (Country Code 51) and the USA (Country Code 1)

Category: US Beer

Not All is Yet Doom and Gloom for Craft Beer

When the pandemic hit, spurring the ensuing (and necessary) shut-downs, there was no dearth of articles predicting the doom of craft brewing, with titles such as “Coronavirus Could Kill Craft Beer” or “Will Craft Brewing Survive?” And, indeed, a survey conducted in April by the Brewers Association revealed a marked decrease in category sales, massive furloughs and layoff, and looming closures. The median drop in sales was of 75%, with an average drop of 65%.    Seventy percent of responding breweries said the would be forced to close within 6 months, and 45% said they could only hold out for 1-3 months.

Now, the virus is surging all over the country, prompting renewed shut downs and bans on indoor service, just as the weather turns cold and the winter dark looms ahead. 

The Independent Restauranteurs association estimated this past week that if things don’t improve and without government assistance down the pike, 70-80% of independent restaurants won’t make it to spring.   Breweries and taprooms face many of the same dynamics as restaurants, so as one goes, so likely goes the other.

It’s could be a long dark winter faced by our friends in the industry.

But … and this being 2020, there is a but… it may surprise one to think that there is a silver lining to the pandemic when it comes to the beer scene, but if we look closely, we’ll find one.

On the one hand state, county, and local governments responded by liberalizing alcohol regulations, permitting outdoor seating, allowing breweries and taproom to take advantage of restaurant exemptions in order to keep operating.  Another key were customers, who switched to to-go only ordering without batting an eye, and who’ve made it a point to support their local brewers and taprooms.

On a federal level the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act and PPP loans also helped breweries and taprooms to survive through the spring.

Thus, while the industry has indeed been hurting, happily we’ve not seen the massive wave of closures that we might have, had nothing been done.

Have there been closings?  Certainly, and specially in the last couple of months, it seems that every other day brings the sad news of a venue shutting its doors, but alongside that we’re seeing a smaller but notable string of openings, between expansions of already existing businesses, new brewers taking over an existing brewery space, or projects long in the works that would be delayed no longer.

(There has also been an increase in interest in homebrewing, which is always a good thing.)

Commercial brewers have also pushed out and gotten their beers onto stores shelves and coolers, and in some cases, they’ve even managed to expand keg sales -no mean feat given that pretty much everyone had, at least initially, reduced the number of taps running in the face of declining sales volume.

Many have stretched to find ways to get the beer out, be it by starting to can or bottle their beers, or by offering pick-up sales, delivery, and even shipping.  This has permitted many a brewery which had previously relied on tap room-only sales to get their beer out and gain exposure over a wider geographical area; and, crucially, to make sales.

In other instances, the stretch has been in infrastructure and equipment; whether it be in building or improving patio spaces, investing in an in-house canning line, or delivery staff and vehicles.

In other words, immediate needs raised by the pandemic have prodded many of our friends to make investments and changes that will pay dividends in the long term, when this mess is all over and done with.

Thankfully, we can say that reports of craft brewing’s demise were a bit premature, to say the least.

Local GABF Winners

On Oct. 16th-17th, the Brewers Association celebrated the 39th edition of the Great American Beer Festival (GABF), the largest and most important beer event in the US.

Due to the pandemic, this year’s event was held entirely online. However, although there was no pro-am component this year, the commercial beers competition was indeed held, and brewers across the country held their breath as they watched the online feed of the awards ceremony, and waited to learn if they’d earned one of the coveted medals.

Below are the medals won by breweries “local” to me -meaning in a wide circle drawn around the San Francisco Bay Area, roughly from Chico in the north to Fresno in the south, and east to the state line.

Congrats to them all! The full list of winners can be viewed HERE.

Black is Beautiful

Brewers worldwide are joining an initiative to brew a special edition beer to raise awareness of the obstacles and injustices faced by Black people on a daily basis, to promote necessary changes, and raise funds for organizations helping to bring about such changes.

The initiative was launched by Marcus Baskerville, the founder and head brewer of Weathered Souls Brewing Company in San Antonio, TX.

As someone who has personally dealt with the abuse of power by the police, this recent turmoil the country is facing has hit home for me. As I write this, I contemplate how the country can move forward, how we as the people, can create change, and what it will take for everyone to move forward with a common respect for one another. For us, we feel that this is our contribution to a step.

Marcus Baskerville, Founder & Head Brewer @ Weathered Souls Brewing

Baskerville brewed Black is Beautiful, a beer which he planned to release as a show of support to those protesting for justice and equality for people of color. Challenged by fellow brewers to turn it into a collaboration -following the precedent set by such initiatives as Sierra Nevada’s “Resilience” campaign- Baskerville teamed up with KD Designs to design a label, established a website, and shared the recipe with the world.

The beer itself is a 10% abv stout, with Cascade hops, including a bittering addition of 45-50 IBUs. However, Baskerville stresses that building on the base recipe brewers should feel free to “please place your own spin and love into this.”

He asks that brewers.

  • Use the label that has been provided
  • Donate 100% of the beer’s proceeds to local foundations that support police brutality reform and legal defenses for those who have been wronged (Weathered Souls will be giving their proceed to the Know Your Rights Campaign)
  • Choose their own entity to donate to local organizations that support equality and inclusion
  • Commit to the long-term work of equality

At this time 962 breweries in all 50 states and 17 countries have signed on to brew Black is Beautiful.

Look for participating breweries near you at blackisbeautiful.beer.

Memories of NYC: Heartland Brewery

This morning one of those “Your Memories” things popped up on my Facebook feed. It was from five years ago, when I joined my wife in New York City for a few days while she was there on a more extended stay.

The specific “memory” was of our visit to the Heartland Brewery and Rotisserie at the Empire State Building.

We had gone out walking in midtown Manhattan and went up to the top floor of the Empire State Building, only to turn around, put off by the high price of admission to the observation deck. Back at ground level, was passed by Heartland, noticed it was a brewery, and decided to go in out of the cold and to make the most of the evening.

The place was one of those where they’ve gone a long way to make the venue feel old-timey when it obviously isn’t, but it was nice enough. Friendly and warm. Packed with tables and booths, it was obvious that the beer was produced somewhere else, but that’s no matter.

We didn’t order any food, so I can’t comment on that, but I recall the beers all being quite solid. They were all classic styles -pale ales, a stout, a heffeweizen, amber, and so on. I remember particularly liking the stout and the heffeweizen. Not bad for my first taste of NYC local beer!

From what I see online, that location is now closed, but Heartland –an employee-owned company– still maintains two locations near Times Square.

I do hope in plying that touristy area, they’ve kept up the quality of their brewing. However, since they’ve won a few medals at the New York State Craft Beer Competition in recent years, there’s no reason to think they haven’t still got it.

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