Minnesota craft breweries struggle during COVID-19 pandemic in attempt to reach customers

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The Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild released an updated report earlier this week that estimates nearly $27 million in lost revenue due to the impact of COVID-19 on the state’s breweries.

The report found more than half of those craft breweries who responded said they would struggle to stay open if the 'stay at home' order extended beyond mid-May.

"Every day is different, definitely some ups, downs," said Megan Park, co-owner of Unmapped Brewing Company in Minnetonka on Excelsior Boulevard.

The brewery ventured into uncharted territory on Friday with the help of NorthStar Mobile Canning to put beer in cans for the first time, so they can be sold at liquor stores.

"It's a bit risky for us to be doing the canning right now,” Megan said. “But we're super excited it's a big day."

The company said the pandemic has created shortages of glass for the big to-go bottles most Minnesota breweries can sell during this time due to restrictions for pickup or delivery.

Unmapped’s co-owner JD Park drove 15-hours round trip to Kansas to replenish their supply for growlers; they had less than a dozen on-hand before he returned.

"That was one of the moments when we thought oh no, what are we going to do because when we run out of growler glasses how are we going to be able to sell our beer,” JD said. “We were really concerned about that."

That glass bottle shortage helped push the company to speed up their plans to can, an idea they had been kicking around before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The vast majority of revenue that craft brewers receive comes from sales made in their taprooms which have been closed in Minnesota since last month, according to the report.

Thirty-five percent of brewers surveyed said they might have to dump beer in reserves as the pandemic continues.

On Friday, Unmapped was planning on exploring using a delivery service for their glass growlers.

Other Minnesota craft brewers are using that as well during the pandemic as a way to reach more customers.

"The community has been awesome. They have stood behind us and really rallied and rooted for us,” said Megan. “Which has made a huge difference as we are just in this unprecedented territory.”

The Guild report offers suggestions as to ways the industry can be helped during COVID-19 restrictions.