As April ends and May begins, we still find ourselves in the midst of possibly the most impactful of our lifetime. COVID-19 has clinched control of all aspects of society. Our daily lives and routines have been significantly altered, along with how we conduct business.  For breweries, these unprecedented times are hitting the bottom line hard. The Brewers Association (BA) recently launched a COVID-19 impact survey which pointed out some staggering, yet anticipated responses. 

Of the nearly 1,000 breweries surveyed, 90.9% responded saying that COVID-19 has impacted their business through on-site sales. 28.4% of respondents said that their production schedule has completely stopped in response to COVID-19 and 61.1% said that they anticipate layoffs as a result of ongoing events. Additional survey data can be accessed here.  As the more than 7,300 craft breweries in this country alter their business models to accommodate online, curbside, and delivery sales, here are four things that should continue to be done as we forge ahead.

1. Keep Up Brand Imaging and Community Engagement

With minimal to no social interaction for consumers in recent weeks and months, social media engagement and online presence are more important now than ever. Everyone could use a dose of positivity on their timeline these days, why not be the one to provide it? Craft breweries are already known for their individualistic attitudes and brands, it is not out of the ordinary for a brewery to post content that is in-line with current trends. Consumers with financial means are wanting to support local businesses through these times and we want that to include craft breweries. Engaging through social media in ways that will have a lasting and positive impact can increase the chances of those consumers putting breweries at the top of their list of businesses to support. To stay relevant, breweries can be hosting live online happy hours, live talks with a brewer or owner via Instagram or Twitter, and even simply reposting shots of customers enjoying their beer from the comfort of their own self-quarantine. 

2. Stay Sustainability-Minded

With priority going to the health, safety, and wellbeing of individuals, not to mention the financial strain from COVID-19, sustainable practices haven’t been at the top of most brewery owner’s minds lately. In some ways, our environment has benefitted from decreased industrial activity, everyone staying inside, less use of transportation, etc. We are seeing an increase in air quality and water quality. We should continue to build on this positive change now, wherever possible. Craft breweries who have a kitchen may still be serving food for consumers to pick-up or have delivered. For those who this is the case, are you using sustainable, disposable to-go containers? Minimizing food and packaging waste is something that can be easily controlled. Also, for those breweries continuing production, now may be the perfect time to evaluate your production line for inefficiencies. Operating an efficient line may be the most sustainable practice you can implement. It should also go without saying that you should continue implementing practices in the brewhouse such as monitoring tracking mechanisms (i.e. water, energy, wastewater) and diverting spent grain from the landfill.

3. Set Future-Oriented Goals and Plans

As the well-known saying goes, “this too shall pass” it is important to remember that this pandemic isn’t going to last forever, although the after-effects will be long-lasting.  Where possible, craft breweries should focus on setting goals for future sustainable growth. Practices that can save money for a brewery in the long run such as implementing operational efficiencies and data tracking are things that can be explored more in-depth during this time of stagnant business. A mindset of positivity is imperative as businesses move forward. Thinking ahead to when your brewery can once again host an event or implement a sustainable practice can be something that drives you forward during this time. 

4. Prepare to Reopen

Along with planning for future growth, breweries should also focus on generating plans and procedures for reopening following the COVID-19 pandemic. These plans may include general practices and procedures for sanitizing and cleaning all equipment and surfaces in a facility. As responsible business owners/operators and citizens, we all still have a responsibility to maximize the level of sanitation that we are practicing to slow or stop the spread of COVID-19. Along with cleanliness and sanitation, breweries and all other businesses will more than likely have to operate under social distancing and capacity limits for a while.  Breweries should ensure that they are operating in compliance with all local, state and federal regulations, proclamations and declarations. Craft beer lovers will be eager to once again support and visit their local brewery for a pint. This transition will be much smoother for businesses that have planned procedures ahead of time in anticipation of reopening in a safe and sustainable way.

As we continue to navigate this foreign new world, it becomes vital to focus on the positives. Implementing these practices can help businesses to continue driving forward and remain engaged during these uncertain times. As we trek forward remember to stay safe, support local, and keep drinking sustainably brewed craft beer!


Grant HelleAbout the Author
Grant Helle
Program Assistant
Iowa Waste Reduction Center

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