Pandemic Q&A with 4th Tap, Nomadic, Oddwood & The Brewtorium

I recently reached out to four of my favorite breweries to check-in and get their thoughts on the current health situation and how they are managing to navigate the rapidly changing rules and dynamic times that we are all facing. Thanks to Nomadic Beerworks, 4th Tap Brewing Co-op, Oddwood Ales & The Brewtorium Brewery & Kitchen for taking valuable time out of their day to provide their responses. I really appreciated how some of their feedback really talks about the strength of the community, the challenges breweries and other small businesses face and the ongoing impact of legislation and how it impacts their businesses. Please go out and support these breweries as well as your favorite places. We will get through this and be stronger for it.

 

4th Tap Logo
Photo Courtesy of 4th Tap

First up, I spoke with Erin and John Stecker from 4th Tap Brewing Co-op.

1) How are you and your team managing the current situation with COVID and shelter in place?
We are trying to stay as positive as possible. As a small business owner, we have to be a little crazy and be O.K. with the rollercoaster that is small business life. This is definitely a scary moment in time, but we are doing what we can to get through it and stay positive. We feel very fortunate that we are still able to produce, package and sell (to-go) beer. While not as much as before, our team is still working. We started Sunday Zoom Happy Hour calls with our team, and we are staying as connected as possible. Our team means everything to us and it’s important for us to set the tone and lead through this challenging time.

2) How has the response been to your to-go only sales?
The support has been amazing and allowed us to keep our beerslingers slinging. Of course, we aren’t doing normal numbers, but the Curbside To-Go process has exceeded our expectations. It’s humbling to feel the support and love from our community.

3) Beyond buying beer, what can consumers do to help your business out?
SHARE! Tell a friend about 4th Tap – let them know what we are doing! Post on social media and tag us in your posts! ….and then place another online order. :wink:

4) Biggest surprise (positive or negative) that you have had throughout this situation?
The biggest surprise has honestly been the success of Curbside Beer To-Go. We are happy about that surprise.

5) Do you have any advice for other breweries or small businesses that are going through similar issues?
Stay positive, be nimble, innovate, and kick ass. We got this, y’all.

 

Nomadic Front Page March 2020
Photo Courtesy of Nomadic

Next, I reached out to Nomadic and spoke with one of the founders, Dan Tyranski.

1) How are you and your team managing the current situation with COVID and shelter in place?
We took this situation very seriously from the beginning. There were big operational changes that we needed to address in order to ensure we could continue to operate. First, and most importantly, we had to ensure the safety of our staff and guests. We actually shut down for a couple of days following the shelter in place order so that we could evaluate how to proceed safely with business operations. We evaluated every interaction point and adjusted accordingly in order to eliminate all of the pathogen transfer points we identified. There are sanitization protocols in place for every type of transaction we process whether orders happen in person, call ahead, or online.
2) How has the response been to your to-go only sales?
The response to our to-go only beer program has been promising. We feel fortunate to live in a city that is so supportive of its small businesses. Although it was scary to head out into the unknown of this COVID-19 shut down without any prior experience on how to navigate this uncharted territory, we made strong re-commitments to what Nomadic Beerworks stands for very early in this crisis. It’s always been about creating community through beer, so we saw no reason to stop just because of a pandemic. We came up with an idea that allows people to reach out to friends during this crisis and reconnect with them when it’s all over. We called it the “Three And One For”. With every three-pack of crowlers sold, we are letting guests “gift” one pint for a friend whom they’d like to grab a beer with when the shelter in place is over. The idea has been very popular. We’ll have quite a fun party to plan when this is all over! That being said, overall sales volumes are down which should come as no surprise. This is a tough time for all businesses, but it hasn’t stopped us from adjusting so that we could continue to crank new beers for our guests. We’ve simply reduced batch sizes and kept the creative beer production process going. There are a lot of interesting beers in the pipeline here, which should give people something fun to look forward to!
3) Beyond buying beer, what can consumers do to help your business out?
It is always so greatly appreciated when guests share the products they pick up from local businesses on social media. This gives small businesses a chance to be discovered by someone new who may be looking to support more local businesses themselves. Also, it is really fun for us to see people enjoying our product and hearing their feedback. We were so used to interacting with guests when they sat down for a pint in our pub prior to the shelter in place. It’s nice to have those conversations and connections still, even in a small way on social media.
4) Biggest surprise (positive or negative) that you have had throughout this situation?
Our biggest surprise was the inequality that the craft beer industry continues to face in regard to the ability to deliver our products directly to individual customers. Bars and restaurants that serve food can deliver cocktails. Why were breweries excluded from this deal? Our livelihood has been impacted in all the same ways restaurants have. Furthermore, self-distributed breweries employ a significant number of delivery drivers whose typical day involves bringing kegs to bars and restaurants. The cutoff in demand from bars in restaurants has led to the loss of delivery jobs. Beer delivery direct to customers could re-create & save jobs. And sure, you could cite the fact that you can order beer delivery via favor from HEB, or something of the like. The problem with this arrangement is that it only benefits specific retailers, and those breweries large enough to have can/bottle distribution within them. Not all breweries see the benefit of this type of arrangement. There is a petition circulating online right now to temporarily allow breweries to deliver beer directly to customers. Direct delivery gives us all an opportunity, not just a select few. It has the potential to save jobs and small businesses. I urge everyone to sign it.

Sign the petition to allow for delivery here!

5) Do you have any advice for other breweries or small businesses that are going through similar issues?
In these unprecedented times, it’s tough to offer up any advice considering how drastically different everyone’s financial and operational situations are. Instead, we’d simply like to let other small business owners know that we’d be happy to chat directly about ideas, possible collaboration, or whatever. We’d just like to help if possible. Just send an email or reach out on social media!
Oddwood Logo
Photo Courtesy of Oddwood Ales

I also reached out to Taylor Ziebarth, one of the Founders of Oddwood Ales to see how they are handling the current situation.

1) How are you and your team managing the current situation with COVID and shelter in place?
Same boat as everyone else, carefully and with lots of Isopropyl alcohol.
2) How has the response been to your to-go only sales?
Very positive, we are incredibly appreciative and humbled by our level of support
3) Beyond buying beer, what can consumers do to help your business out?
Buy pizza! Give us shout outs on social media! (Editor’s Note – I recommend Ma’s Stromboli and the Meatballs, if and when available)
4) Biggest surprise (positive or negative) that you have had throughout this situation?
How amazing the people of Austin, TX are!

5) Do you have any advice for other breweries or small businesses that are going through similar issues?
Maintain that to-go website. It’s our lifeline right now and it needs to be well-curated.

 

The Brewtorium Logo
Photo Courtesy of The Brewtorium

Last, I got great feedback from Chris Rauschuber, Co-Founder & Head Brewer of The Brewtorium.

1) How are you and your team managing the current situation with COVID and shelter in place?
Like most businesses in the brewery/restaurant industry, we’re operating with a skeleton crew these days and scheduling just enough bar and kitchen staff to handle the take-out orders that come in. We added a pantry section to our online menu, so our crew also spends their time packaging up flour, eggs and the like since we can only get commercial quantities and have to get them into a consumer-friendly format. We recently got some hand sanitizer from Banner Distilling in Manor, so we’re packaging that into spray bottles.

On the health and safety front, we keep a couple of timers going throughout the shift to keep us on a tight sanitizing schedule – changing out the bar sanitizer sink and spraying down all the high-touch surfaces. Additionally, we’re sanitizing terminals and the bartop after guest interactions. We set up a tent and table out front every day so that folks can have a contactless transaction. Some people still want to come in to pick up their order and that’s cool, too – we do our best to maintain distancing while still making them feel welcome.

Whether it’s a crowler & reuben handoff in the parking lot or a brief, socially-distant conversation in our beer hall while waiting on a flammkuchen and a growler fill, these small interactions remind us what we love most about being in this business: people, beer and food.

2) How has the response been to your to-go only sales?
We have been really overwhelmed by the support from our community. We had only done very limited take-out business before last month, so we had no idea what to expect. The first day was pretty hectic since we didn’t have online ordering yet and we spent a lot of time on the phone. Once we got online ordering enabled, it streamlined things quite a bit.

Let’s be clear, though – we’re still down roughly 70% just like everyone else with a similar business model. It’s an incredible challenge for a place like ours, built around community and camaraderie, to thrive when gathering with friends and family presents a threat to both.

3) Beyond buying beer, what can consumers do to help your business out?
If you want to support us but buying beer isn’t an option, please check out our food, pantry and retail options. We also offer online gift cards. We’re working on a way for patrons to support our staff that are furloughed or on reduced hours, so stay tuned for that. No matter what you do, please support those in the service industry – this is the time to overtip!

4) Biggest surprise (positive or negative) that you have had throughout this situation?
Like many other breweries, our first big shock was how scarce the supply of 32oz crowler cans was. We’ve done our best to adapt by filling bottles and, with help from our friends at American Canning, switching to 750mL crowler cans. We’re also planning to fill some 16oz cans in a few weeks for our Pink Boots IPA release, so hopefully that will ease the pressure on our crowler can supply.

Another big surprise was how much baking people are doing in quarantine. Since we started selling pantry items, we’ve had a hard time keeping flour and bread yeast in stock. The only yeast we’ve been able to get is in 1lb bricks, where a typical single-serving pack is a few ounces. It sold out almost immediately once the word got out and we kept getting phone calls asking if we had it back in stock. We’re going to start breaking the packages up into smaller quantities when we get our next shipment so that we can help more folks in the neighborhood keep their dough rising.

5) Do you have any advice for other breweries or small businesses that are going through similar issues?
Everyone’s situation is different, but I would advise other breweries and small businesses to keep trying out weird ideas to see what works. We’ve been trying to take small risks every day while keeping a close watch on cash flow.

Most of all, though, please reach out to one another if there’s a way that we can help each other. We have, by nature, worked hard to get better at our particular areas of expertise and specialize in something that sets us apart. Now is the time to find creative ways to combine our strengths and survive together so that we can all flourish when this is over.

 

Cheers to our Sponsors!


                                                                           
     

 

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