COVID-19 Response: Ball Increases Production of Crowler Cans; Senate Passes $2 Trillion Aid Package

Ball Corporation Increases Crowler Production to Meet Demand; Growler Sales Surge

Ball Corporation has added production of 32 oz. crowler cans and expects to have a supply ready to hit the market in two days.

“Demand for 32 oz. crowlers has surged, similar to other consumer products, during this uncertain time,” strategic communications director Scott McCarty said. “Ball is adjusting our production to help meet that demand. We believe we will have additional cans moving into the market within the next 48 hours.”

The company, which is the nation’s sole producer of 32 oz. crowler cans, increased the size of its planned second-quarter run and is working to expedite shipments when possible, McCarty said.

As states have forced bars, restaurants and breweries to close for on-premise service during the COVID-19 pandemic, craft breweries whose taprooms are their main source of revenue have turned to to-go sales of cans, growlers and crowlers to stay afloat. However, the shortage of crowler cans, which Ball is the only maker of in the nation, has hampered those efforts.

Meanwhile, sales of glass growlers from wholesaler Glass and Growlers “are cranking,” chief operating officer William Kerr said.

The Las Vegas, Nevada-based company has received orders from as far away as Europe and Australia and domestic orders are coming in from clients ranging in size from small craft breweries to national craft-centric chain Yard House, Kerr said.

“Growler sales are going through the roof,” he said. “We’re on our second truckload this week.”

Kerr said the company expects two more truckloads of growlers to arrive next week. Glass and Growlers is shipping orders for blank pieces by the next day and can print one-color artwork from three to five days of receiving files. Minimum order sizes begin at 36 pieces.

The past week’s orders have increased five-fold over normal business, though sales of glassware have ceased, Kerr said.

“We’re looking to be long-term partners,” Kerr said. “We’re not gouging these guys with prices. We’re making sure to keep things economic, as a partner would.”

Deschutes Layoffs Affect Majority of Employees

Deschutes Brewery founder Gary Fish told the Bend Bulletin that the company has laid off about 60% of its staff.

The job cuts have impacted up to 300 people across many departments, though about 140 employees remain in Deschutes’ production and packaging teams. The lay offs exceeded numbers initially reported by Brewbound.

Unemployment claims in the U.S. have reached unprecedented levels, Brewers Association chief economist Bart Watson wrote in a tweet.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported that new jobless claims for the week ending March 21 increased by more than 3 million claims over the week prior to 3,283,000 — the most initial claims made in a single week in recorded history. The previous high was 695,000 in October 1982.

Senate Passes $2 Trillion Stimulus Package

The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, the $2 trillion stimulus package to aid the public health and economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill, as written, includes the following:

  • Emergency grants of $10,000 for small businesses that have applied for Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the Small Business Association (SBA);
  • SBA loans for businesses with fewer than 500 employees and the ability to have forgiven the portion of those loans that was used to cover payroll, rent or mortgage and utilities;
  • A retention tax credit for companies that keep workers on payroll during the pandemic while those businesses are completely or partially closed or businesses whose receipts have declined 50% or more compared to this quarter last year;
  • The postponement of employer payroll tax payments over the next two years;
  • Unemployment benefits to self-employed workers, independent contractors and those with limited work history;
  • And a temporary excise tax exemption for alcohol used to produce hand sanitizer.

“We hope this piece of federal legislation will be a major step in your recovery, and subsequently, in rebuilding the economy,” BA president and CEO Bob Pease said in a statement. “We will update you as the situation evolves.”

COVID-19-related shutdowns have severely affected craft brewers and the bar and restaurant industry.

“Restaurants and employees have been community lifelines during the coronavirus crisis — all while dealing with a catastrophic cash flow crunch, massive layoffs, and in too many cases, total shutdowns,” National Restaurant Association executive vice president of public affairs Sean Kennedy said in a statement.

“We applaud President Trump and bipartisan congressional leaders in crafting a relief bill that gives unique recovery options to the restaurant industry. This measure is an important first step to help restaurants weather the storm, take care of our employees, and prepare for when we are given the signal to open our doors once again,” he continued.

Senators approved the bill 96-0 and the House of Representatives is expected to vote on it Friday morning, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said during a press conference Thursday morning.

“I feel certain that we will have a strong bipartisan vote,” Pelosi said.

NJ Governor Orders Breweries to Stop Delivery

When New Jersey bars and restaurants were forced to shut down for on-premise consumption on March 16, those businesses, as well as some of the state’s craft breweries, began offering delivery.

On Wednesday, Gov. Phil Murphy’s office informed breweries they had to stop delivering beer directly to consumers, according to a report in the Star-Ledger. Craft breweries in the state have said they are trying to overturn the order.

Bradley Beach, N.J.-based Bradley Brew Project began offering delivery last week but announced it would stop.

Although the state governments of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut have moved in lockstep since last week, the New York State Liquor Authority has not placed the same limitation on that state’s breweries, New York State Brewers Association executive director Paul Leone told Brewbound.

Brewers Association Offers Temporary Free Memberships

As craft breweries navigate the financial fallout from on-premise closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Brewers Association (BA), which represents the nation’s small and independent brewers, is offering free temporary memberships.

Benefits of membership include access to the BA’s online educational materials and webinars. Annual dues start at $195 for breweries making 500 barrels annually or fewer, and increase to $15,000 for breweries making more than 750,000 barrels.

Interested brewers should email The BA has set up a COVID-19 resource center that includes technical information about shutting down draft lines, sanitizing breweries and other topics, as well as a digital marketing toolkit for promotion during on-premise shutdowns and a directory of breweries’ alternative retail methods by state.

Allagash Donates Personal Protective Equipment to Hospital

Portland, Maine-based Allagash Brewing tweeted that its staff discovered extra safety masks, which the brewery donated to the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center.

The brewery has been delivering beer directly to consumers in the Portland area.

Beer Institute Publishes COVID-19 Guidelines

National trade group the Beer Institute (BI) has published guidelines for food-grade facilities and wholesalers when an employee or customer tests positive for COVID-19 or is exposed to a person who has tested positive, using information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“Food production facilities, distributors and wholesalers are part of our nation’s ‘critical infrastructure’ and must remain operational to feed the country,” the CDC said. “Inconsistent approaches to reacting to an employee who tests positive for COVID-19 has the potential to jeopardize our food system.”

Trade associations that joined the BI in signing onto the document include the National Beer Wholesalers Association, the American Beverage Association, the American Bakers Association, the American Frozen Food Institute and the National Chicken Council.

The BI has also compiled a tracker with details on each state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Included are statewide limits on gatherings, closures of non-essential businesses including bar and restaurant specifications.

Untappd Creates Ways to Support Local Businesses and Share Virtual Beers During Social Distancing

Beer rating app Untappd has created two avenues to keep drinkers informed and stay connected during nationwide on-premise shutdowns.

Greg’s List, named for Untappd founder Greg Avola, allows breweries, restaurants and bars to update consumers on their retail offerings and availability of delivery, curbside pickup and gift cards.

Untappd at Home offers a universal “at home” location to check in while drinking beers during social distancing.

“Check-in to that beer you just got delivered or picked up curbside, see what your global Untappd friends are having at home, and share that you’re doing your part to prioritize safety,” Untappd’s blog said.

Untappd is also hosting virtual happy hours on Thursday evenings for users to connect via video.

Beer Companies Donate to Bartenders and Restaurant Staff

Molson Coors Beverage Company has announced it will donate $1 million to the United States Bartenders’ Guild, a nonprofit organization that supports bartenders and servers.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 37 years in the beer business it’s that bartenders have always played a key role on the front lines selling our products,” Molson Coors U.S. sales president Kevin Doyle said in a post on the company’s blog. “Over the years they’ve helped make our brands successful and it’s only right we give something back.”

Other brewers making similar donations include Boston Beer Company, which donated $100,000 to the Restaurant Strong Fund, a fund it created for Massachusetts service industry employees with local philanthropy the Greg Hill Foundation. Boston Beer will also match donations up to another $100,000 through March 31.

Constellation Brands, parent company of Mexican import brands Corona, Modelo and Pacifico, which has pledged $1 million to the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, $500,000 to the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild and $250,000 to first responders.

New Belgium Brewing established the New Belgium Brewing Bar & Restaurant Relief Fund and donated an initial $50,000 with a commitment to match donations up to another $50,000. The fund will support furloughed and laid off service industry employees in Fort Collins, Colorado, and Asheville, North Carolina, where the company has breweries.

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