Area breweries adapt to COVID-19 rules

  • Honest Weight co-owner Jay Sullivan checks on a batch of beer at the Orange brewery. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Honest Weight beer in cans for sale in Orange. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Honest Weight Brewery co-owner Sean Nolan in an empty tap room in Orange. They are not pouring pints in their tap room but are selling cans and kegs. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Honest Weight Brewery in Orange is not pouring pints in its tap room but is selling cans and kegs from their West Main Street location in the Orange Innovation Center. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Honest Weight Brewery co-owner Sean Nolan with their brew in cans for sale in Orange. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 7/24/2020 2:31:29 PM
Modified: 7/24/2020 2:31:25 PM

With lasting limitations set by their local boards of health, area breweries are learning to adapt to new business models with to-go sales and outdoor service.

While Sean Nolan, co-founder and co-owner of Orange’s Honest Weight Brewing Company, said they weren’t given permission to serve beer outdoors on their premises by the Orange Board of Health, the company has been able to maintain strong sales through pick-up orders of canned beer. Located at the Orange Innovation Center, the brewery is set to celebrate its fifth anniversary in the fall.

Currently, Honest Weight is closed Mondays, but open every other day of the week for sales of growlers, bottles and cans of beer. Hours are Tuesday to Thursday from noon to 4 p.m., Friday and Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Masks are required for customers. Customers can also order online for curbside pickup.

“Somehow, it’s kind of working,” Nolan said.

He said he’s heard from a number of customers who said they have enjoyed the convenience of ordering the local beer online and having it dropped in their car upon arrival over a trip to a liquor store. Nolan said they were looking forward to welcoming patrons back to enjoy their beer on site, whenever that may be. In the meantime, he said they will be able to carry on with their various distribution routes for packaged beer.

“We’re grateful for the fact that we haven’t closed at all,” Nolan said. “We were deemed an essential service early on because we operate partially like a liquor store. We sell beer to go, so we’re categorized as a liquor store that way.”

While they are able to stay open in this manner, Nolan said they did have to cut some staff — a brewer and two bartenders — as a result of COVID-19-related changes. He said they have stopped producing beer in kegs or for wholesale, in part, because restaurants that would normally use kegs are primarily selling bottled or canned beer at this time. Honest Weight Brewing Company’s canning is currently being done by a third party, but Nolan said they have ordered their own canning equipment and they will be able to start canning their beer in house sometime this fall.

“We only started canning last November, but it represents 90 percent of the product we’re releasing right now,” Nolan said.

North County

Thanks to the completion of its new outdoor patio, Hitchcock Brewing Company in Bernardston has even more space for customers to gather for a pint outdoors while keeping a safe social distance. Dan Bear, the front of house manager for Hitchcock Brewing Company, said they received permission to seat and serve customers with their outdoor space. Bear said customer feedback has been positive, with many saying they feel comfortable with the health precautions in place.

“Fortunately we have a lot of space,” Bear said. “We have the patio, and we’re using the parking lot as well.”

He said they are able to have roughly 20 tables spread around for food social distancing, keeping at least 10 feet of space between the backs of chairs. For the time being, Hitchcock Brewing Company is not hosting musical events. Bear said it came down to a “moral responsibility” not to promote any events that would normally see larger groups of people turn out.

The brewery is currently open Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 9 p.m., Friday from 3 to 9 p.m., Saturday from noon to 9 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 7 p.m. Bear said they invite food trucks to the premises each Friday, Saturday and Sunday. He said they are also using their own kitchen to provide limited in-house food options, like slices of pizza, hot dogs or pretzels.

Other breweries in the county have also created online stores for direct sales and pick up orders. Hitchcock Brewing Company is taking orders of canned beer for curbside pick up service, available through Hitchcock Brewing Company’s Facebook “Shop Now” store or the brewery’s direct website.

West County

Over in Shelburne Falls, the Floodwater Brewing Company has also developed an online store for merchandise and beer growler sales. Floodwater Brewing’s pick-up hours are Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Brewery Owner Zack Livingston said they are hoping to have food service available in the near future.

“That would allow us to extend our hours; however, at this point nothing’s set in stone,” Livingston said. “The business was geared primarily towards on site sales and consumption so we’ve taken a little bit of a hit, but the community has been very supportive buying growler fills and beers to go in general. Hopefully that continues.”

Turners Falls

Brick & Feather Brewery in Turners Falls also launched an online store, which is being updated regularly for fresh-brewed cans and growlers for sale.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.


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