At Spencer Devon Brewing in downtown Fredericksburg, owner Shawn Phillips is hard at work with new beer releases, canning beer in-house and coming up with new promotions, all while organizing beer and food deliveries.
He’s not alone. Breweries around the Fredericksburg area are scrambling to make sales and get their products to consumers during the coronavirus pandemic. For Phillips and his fellow brewers, a virtual beer tour is an ideal way for locals to engage with breweries and have some fun while stuck indoors.
Danelle Rose, tourism services manager for Fredericksburg’s department of Economic Development & Tourism, said the Fredericksburg Area Beer Trail has adapted along with the breweries.
By purchasing from local breweries, people can win prizes while taking a beer tour from their own homes. Her department launched the Brew Thru game on April 17. First, participants screenshot the game card from FABTrail.com. Then, after ordering curbside pick-up or delivery from participating breweries, they can take a picture enjoying the order or snap a pic of the receipt and mark off the brewery on the game card.
Participants who visit five or more breweries by May 31 will be entered for a chance to win gift cards or brewery merchandise. Send the filled-out card via Facebook message to FAB Beer Trail to enter. Participating breweries are: 6 Bears & A Goat Brewing Co., 1781 Brewing Co., Maltese Brewing Co., Barley Naked, Highmark Brewery, Strangeways Brewing, Red Dragon, Adventure Brewing and Spencer Devon Brewing.
One of Spencer Devon’s options for purchase is a “dealers choice 4-pack.” For $10, they will pick four different beers and pack them for pick up or delivery.
But even with these promotions, sales have dropped drastically. Some of Phillips’ staff volunteered time while they waited for stimulus money to keep the operation moving smoothly.
Brewery owners are trying to stay afloat by posting frequently on social media and offering merchandise.
Strangeways Brewing owner and founder Neil Burton, has a “steal the glass” promotion. His staff developed a COVID-19 SUX label for cans, which they have also had printed on limited-edition pint glasses. Any order of $40 gets a glass, while an order of $75 gets two.
All beer at Strangeways is being sold at happy hour prices and the brewery is offering curbside pickup and delivery within 10 miles of their Lansdowne Road site.
“This time is harder for our customers, too,” Burton said. “We’re trying to give people deals during this time.”
He said they are trying to “not drown” instead of bringing in profits. He said this is especially important to keep his full-time employees working.
“Every brewery in the nation is scaling back,” Burton said. “Everything has to be in packaging, so draft beer is not a thing right now.”
Tim Bornholtz of Adventure Brewing said he and his staff are focusing on beer.
“It’s what we know best, so that’s what we’re sticking with,” he said.
Their Fred Red and Expedition IPA beers are available in cans at both the Stafford and Fredericksburg locations.
“It has definitely had adverse effects,” he said about the pandemic. “But we’re trying to make lemonade out of the lemons. Adding delivery has opened a new avenue for us that will continue.”
The best way to support them is to buy their beer or a gift card, Bornholtz said.
“Remember that there are nine great breweries in the area and everyone is still making great beer,” he said. “We’re brewing more to keep up with demand and are continually releasing new beers as well as the classic favorites.”
Lindsey Heppner of 6 Bears & A Goat said the brewery is offering curbside pickup and delivery. The restaurant is offering food, wine and mixed drinks for curbside pickup and delivery, as well.
“We want to keep the beer flowing,” she said.
Barley Naked in Spotsylvania County is doing a Cinco de Mayo release to keep spirits up. Their honey churro amber ale will come out May 5. It’s a bready beer, owner Barry Boyd said, and it has notes of honey, cinnamon and vanilla.
The brewery is open every day but Monday for pickups, and he’s hoping to bring a little light and happiness to local lives during the pandemic. Along with growlers, he’s offering “adult juice boxes.” The 64-ounce collapsible containers look like Capri Suns, and are an inexpensive option for taking out beer.
“It’s something silly,” he said. “I hope it helps people relax a little.”
Harry Pagan of 1781 Brewing Co. in Spotsylvania said that not only does the local brewery scene support the economy, but breweries are diverse social hubs that add to the vibrancy of the area.
“When you support your local brewers, you support your neighbors that eat, shop, buy, rent and live within your community,” he said.
He said local breweries, restaurants and hospitality businesses are in dire straits.
“At times, I feel selfish because what we are doing is a luxury … and there are so many more important things to think about in the state of pandemic,” Pagan said. “I personally know the many faces of our local beer industry and the actual blood, sweat and tears that we have put into our companies, and it is heartbreaking. We are staying positive and we can’t wait to reopen our bars, hug our friends, and hand you a pint.”