WA could lose half its breweries if stay-at-home order lingers through summer

Apr 28, 2020, 5:21 AM

breweries, brewery...

Washington beers. (KIRO Radio, Chris Sullivan)

(KIRO Radio, Chris Sullivan)

Just like every other small business in the state, breweries are struggling to keep the lights on. For those that do not can or bottle their beers, survival will be very difficult the longer their tap rooms stay closed because of the governor’s order.

The Washington Brewing Commission’s Eric Radovich said the state’s 420 brewers are hanging in there, but not by much.

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“You’re getting 25% of your normal business, if you’re lucky,” Radovich said.

That 75% reduction in sales comes with plenty of job loss pain for brewery workers.

“I’d say about half of our full-time staff and nearly all of our part-time workers at these breweries are out of work,” Radovich said.

The bigger breweries, like Fremont and Georgetown for example, should be able to weather the storm, considering their canning abilities. It’s the small breweries, like those you find in strip malls and business parks, that only have tap rooms that will have a very difficult time.

“If we’re still in this stay-at-home status as we get into the summer months, we could potentially lose half of our breweries,” Radovich said. “That would be a good estimate.”

That’s why most breweries are getting really creative to get their beer to customers.

“Curbside, drive-thru pickup, to discounts on growler purchases. Some of our breweries are finding ways to do beer delivery.”

So if you want your favorite brewer to survive this crisis, you have to go spend some money on them. Here’s a list of breweries making their beers available right now.

Nationally, there is a concern over a lack of CO2, which breweries need for carbonation. Many of the plants that produce CO2 as a by-product and then sell it, have closed.

Production is down 30%, which has driven up prices by 25%. There is a concern that brewers and soda producers won’t be able to get this necessary ingredient. Some small breweries do have a CO2 recapturing system, but most don’t.

The other concern for beer drinkers is our Washington hop harvest, but that appears to be in good shape.

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WA could lose half its breweries if stay-at-home order lingers through summer