Pandemic dropped Minnesota brewery sales by 18%, U of M survey shows |

Pandemic dropped Minnesota brewery sales by 18%, U of M survey shows

Josh Skluzacek/ Tom Hauser
Updated: April 05, 2021 07:36 PM
Created: April 05, 2021 11:02 AM

A new study by the University of Minnesota shows just how big of an impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Minnesota's breweries.

According to U of M Extension, the state's economy lost over $186 million in economic activity from brewers due to COVID-19, and around 1,050 jobs were affected.

The U of M said its survey showed breweries make 73% of their sales at their physical location, so the pandemic's restrictions hit breweries hard, resulting in an 18% decline in sales and a decrease in employment of 10% across all breweries.

On the bright side, very few craft breweries have gone out of business during the pandemic thanks to takeout sales of "growlers" and the smaller "crowlers" of beer. Some brewery owners say their customers were very generous during the shutdowns last March until June and again from November until early January.

"People would come out and week after week we had a little drive-thru set up so they would pull up and we'd run out and take their orders," says Megan Park, owner of "Unmapped Brewing" in Minnetonka. "They'd say we have our refrigerator stocked but we just want to see you guys survive."

Now brewery customers like Mark Jedele are looking forward to a return to normal this summer.

"It was great to go out to grab a crowler or growler, but it's still not the same," he told 5 Eyewitness News while sipping a beer at Unmapped Brewing. "Really, really looking forward to (this summer). I think it's going to be crowded. It's going to be busy."

His friend Eric Cowan agrees.

"I enjoy the comraderie of coming out with the guys like Mark," he said shortly before the two sat on the Unmapped patio on an 82-degree day. "This is kind of a neighborhood spot for me."

Still, a few breweries reported having issues with financing due to things like banks backing out of agreements over the breweries' inability to make loan payments during the pandemic. And while the federal and state governments passed COVID-19 relief packages, the study found breweries faced two issues that left many in Minnesota without access to relief programs:

  • Brewers didn't have enough of a financial track record to prove the pandemic's impact due to being relatively young, and
  • Outdoor sales during the summer when restrictions were eased were strong for some breweries and compared favorably to 2019, creating a deceiving picture of how well the breweries were doing financially.

Of the 65 breweries that responded to the U of M survey, 66% reported holding no events in 2020 or a full end after March. In 2019, the state's craft breweries drew an estimated 3.6 million people to events.

Click here to read the full report.

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