As the coronavirus disease spreads (or COVID-19) across the U.S., beer companies are adjusting their businesses for a reality where social distance is encouraged.

As the coronavirus disease spreads (or COVID-19) across the U.S., beer companies are adjusting their businesses for a reality where social distance is encouraged.

Some Breweries Close While Others Adjust to the Coronavirus

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As businesses across the country are taking extra precautions because of the COVID-19 virus, breweries are putting in new procedures and canceling events altogether in order to keep the public safe and prevent unnecessary risks.

Jack’s Abby and District Brew Yards Make Sanitation Adjustments

The first brewery to announce major changes was Jack’s Abby in Massachusetts when they put out a blog post on Wednesday outlining major changes to their brewery which also serves food.

“We take the safety and health of our staff and our guests very seriously,” said Kat Leggett, PR and events manager for Jack’s Abby. “COVID-19 is at the top of everyone’s minds, which is why we are being proactive and exercising an abundance of caution by implementing these changes. We want our customers to feel comfortable so we are working to ensure we have the safest and cleanest environment possible.”

Just some of the changes include moving from communal seating to individual table seating so that cleaning between customers would be easier. Caddies will also be removed from the tables alongside silverware and napkins and instead would be brought to each table individually to decrease the exposure of items.

Across the country, taprooms laid out new cleaning guidelines to help sanitize the space as best as possible.

District Brew Yards in Chicago which houses four different breweries in a pour-your-own beer setting, has additional changes with over 20 tap handles that are exposed to the public and can be handled by anyone visiting the brewery.

“District Brew Yards is taking COVID-19 seriously while maintaining a pragmatic approach,” District Brew Yards said in a statement to PorchDrinking.com. “After all, winter is always flu season, and we were mindful of needing additional sanitation at the beginning of the season, before the COVID-19 outbreak.”

Since the winter, District Brew Yards has been double-sanitizing glassware before it hits the floor, as well as taking special precautions with the beer cards used to track the beer each patron drinks, as well as each of the tap handles.

“We’re also extremely mindful of the health of our employees at District Brew Yards. These steps are for their protection, as well as the health and safety of our customers. We’ve encouraged employees to be conscious of their personal health, use sick leave when necessary and take additional steps to protect themselves.”

Canceling Brewery Tours

Tours at many breweries have been canceled for the time being to keep any potential spreading out of the brewhouse. Jack’s Abby announced that no tours would take place until further notice. Many other breweries followed suit, including Revolution Brewing in Chicago and Wild Leap Brew Co. in Georgia.

Flying Dog Brewery and Lakefront Brewery Close

While some breweries are taking extra precautions, a couple have announced they are closing altogether, including Flying Dog Brewery in Maryland.

“Given the recent guidance from the CDC about limiting attendance at large gatherings, we have made the decision to close our tasting room and cancel all events at the brewery as an extra precaution to protect the health and safety of our employees and our community,” Flying Dog said on their website.

On Thursday, one of Milwaukee’s biggest and most well-known breweries, Lakefront Brewery announced it would be closed starting Friday, March 13th and did not announce a date that it would re-open.

While not many breweries have closed completely, it’s something that isn’t out of the realm of possibility as they continue to monitor the situation.

“This situation is ever-evolving and we will act in accordance with state and local health officials’ recommendations,” Leggett said. “We are not closing now as we believe that during these challenging times that relaxing with friends and a beer is an important social and mental activity.”

Another challenge for the beer industry is the long list of events and beer releases that are on the calendar for the next several weeks.

As many states are starting to automatically cancel any events with more than 250 people, Cigar City’s Hunahpu’s Day, scheduled to be held today, was canceled. They offered two different refund options with one offering tickets to next year’s event and four bottles of the 2021 Stout.

Other Taproom Changes and Closures

  • Sierra Nevada’s breweries and taproom in Chico and Berkeley, California, and Mills River, North Carolina, will remain open, but the company will ramp up sanitizing efforts with stronger cleaning supplies, remove check presenters to limit the spread of germs, discard coasters and crayons after each use, switch to laminated or single-use menus and remove condiment bottles with single-use packets. Because the Chico brewery’s event space capacity exceeds 250 people, all events will be canceled or postponed and refunds for tickets and rentals will be issued. Tours have also been suspended until the end of March.
  • Athletic Brewing in Stratford, Connecticut, has closed its tasting room but is still selling to-go non-alcoholic beer.
  • Tree House Brewing in Charlton, Massachusetts, has suspended its draft offerings and is asking people standing in line for cans to stay 10 feet apart, built a windowed wall at the can point of purchase to minimize person-to-person contact and is not accepting cash.
  • Founders Brewing has closed its taprooms in Grand Rapids and Detroit, Michigan, and will pay employees during the closure.
  • Harpoon Brewery in Boston has also increased its cleaning routines throughout its public spaces and breweries, limiting occupancy, suspending brewery tours, and is no longer offering board games, among other measures, the company said.
  • Guinness’ Open Gate Brewery in Baltimore, Maryland, is closed until further notice. The company has canceled its planned St. Patrick’s Day events and is offering full refunds to ticket holders, but will still donate to the charities designated to benefit from ticket sales.
  • Massachusetts’ Lord Hobo is maintaining regular hours and operations at its Woburn and Cambridge locations but is increasing cleaning regimens. The company is also offering free growler and squealer containers for beer-to-go sales.
  • Bremerton, Washington-based Silver City Brewery will not be offering growler or personal keg refills until further notice. The company suggests purchasing freshly packaged beer but will fill “new, out-of-the-box growlers.”
  • Covington, Kentucky-based Braxton Brewing Company is employing a worker solely dedicated to cleaning and disinfecting its facilities and taprooms, co-founder and CEO Jake Rouse wrote in a message to fans. The company is also increasing cleaning of public areas and surfaces, ceasing growler fills, suspending tours and encouraging staff and visitors who are not feeling well to stay home.
  • Portland, Maine’s Sebago Brewing Company said it is increasing cleaning routines of frequently touched surfaces in its brewpubs, brewery, tasting room and offices. The company also said it offers delivery through DoorDash at all locations, as well as Uber Eats and Grubhub at every location except for Kennebunk.
  • Bissell Brothers in Portland, Maine, said it is suspending the acceptance of cash payments.
  • Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Bantam Cider said it would increase the frequency of its cleaning and sanitation cycles at its facility and for high-touch surfaces, suspended the use of high-contact items such as paper menus and board games, and limiting peak occupancy, among other measures.
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s Lakefront Brewery has closed its beer hall, restaurant and tours to the public.
  • DC Brau in Washington, D.C., will not fill growlers or offer draft beer until March 31st. The brewery is still offering cans to go.
  • Fibonacci Brewing in Cincinnati, Ohio, is offering drive-through pickup of beer for off-premise consumption and home delivery to select ZIP codes for $5.
  • Brooklyn Brewery in New York will shift its taproom payments to card or contactless phone banking, reduce the capacity and number of tours and offer beers in single-use compostable cups.
  • At J. Wakefield Brewing in Miami, Florida, taproom servers are wearing nitrile gloves while pouring beer and all draft beers are served in single-use plastic cups
  • Indianapolis’ Sun King is no longer allowing customers to bring their own growlers for refills but will fill new growlers purchased at its tasting rooms. The brewery is no longer hosting public or private brewery tours as well as postponing other events, including Indians Opening Night/Bike to the Ballpark.

Event Cancellations Around the Country

The spread of the coronavirus has also forced many beer companies to either postpone or outright cancel upcoming events. The Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America and World Beer Cup had been scheduled to take place next month in San Antonio. They were canceled. The Colorado Brewers Guild suspended its 2020 Collaboration Fest. And there were other as well. Read more about the event cancellations here.

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