May 11, 2020
I’ve been wanting to write a public update for about a month—to give our supporters and others in the beer industry a clear picture of how we’re weathering this crisis. But each time I considered it, it felt too early. So much was in flux that it would have been like writing about a baseball game after only the first inning. Now that there’s a little more clarity around our near future, I wanted to fill everyone in on how we’re doing at Allagash.
While someone from the general public might understandably speculate that all breweries are doing pretty well—people are enjoying more beer than ever at home—that’s not the full picture. For 25 years, the majority of our business came from draft sales to bars and restaurants. In the middle of March, that all disappeared. On top of that, we had planned to host over 150,000 guests for tours and tastings at our brewery over the course of 2020. That is also not likely to happen. Like many businesses, we’ve had to change our plans quickly. One of those changes was creating a local beer pickup and delivery service out of our tasting room called Allagash on the Fly. We had also recently installed a high-speed canning line, which has been crucial in allowing us to pivot more heavily into packaged beer sales.
That all being said, our experience pales in comparison to what so many of our friends—bar owners and restaurateurs across America—are going through. And beyond the purely economic cost of the virus, our heart goes out to everyone whose family, friends, and loved ones have been affected by COVID-19.
This gets to the core of the values that guide our company. The nearly 150 people across the country that we employ make us who we are. And we’ve made it our top priority to keep them working, healthy, and fully covered medically. Everyone at Allagash who can work from home, is. And our brewery space and shift scheduling has been completely reinvented to ensure our employees can be (and feel) safe in their workspace. Our production crew maintains social distancing and extensive new sanitizing and operating procedures. On top of that, all shared spaces in the brewery have been rearranged to maximize space and we have established a set occupancy limit at all times.
As soon as we understood the magnitude of the shift taking place, we reworked our operating budget in a way that has allowed us to keep our staff intact with no layoffs. While we have had to reduce hours in some departments, our staff has been resilient and flexible in meeting our business’ changing demands.
With the budgetary constraints we’re now facing, we’ve had to reimagine our philanthropic program as well. For the foreseeable future, our ability to give monetary donations will be strained. The reality is that within this current situation, we’re only brewing around half of the beer we would under normal circumstances. Faced with those limitations, I have been so proud of and awed by the resourcefulness of our staff. From donating excess beer for distillation into hand sanitizer, to providing beer to front-line medical workers, to volunteering time packing emergency food boxes, our employees have ensured that we remain a positive member of our community. You can see a full list of our staff’s amazing efforts here.
This past year, we became a certified B Corp, committing us to our mission to be a force for good in our community. We’ve been tested in that pledge more than ever over the past year. One key principle is transparency: how are we doing as a company? To answer, we’re getting through this. Every single day we discuss and reassess our plan to make sure that we’re well situated to meet the future on its own terms. That’s not to say that the longer this situation continues, we won’t be forced into making harder decisions. But we’re confident we’ll come through this a more knowledgeable, stronger brewery than ever.
I want to end by speaking directly to the bar owners, restaurateurs, bartenders, servers, cooks, and staff that are hit so hard right now. Thank you so much for the countless great memories we’ve shared. When we’re all through this, I can’t wait to sit down and chat with a beer in front of me. I, and everyone at Allagash, eagerly look forward to figuring out how we, as a community dedicated to bringing people closer, can all make the best of whatever new reality awaits us on the other side.
Hope you’re well.