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Newfoundland breweries adapting to unprecedented times

Tim Vatcher is a partner and manager with the Split Rock Brewing Co. in Twillingate. The brewery has been using curbside pickup to get its products to people in the region. Saltwire Network file photo
Tim Vatcher is a partner and manager with the Split Rock Brewing Co. in Twillingate. The brewery has been using curbside pickup to get its products to people in the region. Saltwire Network file photo - File Photo

It is a difficult time to be a craft brewery in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The pubs and restaurants are all closed, which means the ways those breweries had to get their products into the hands of beer drinkers have been narrowed.

Many have seen their tap rooms shut down, eliminating another revenue stream in these unprecedented times.

Still, breweries are adapting and making sure they get beer to the people who need it.

Breweries like Split Rock Brewing Co. in Twillingate have taken to offering curbside pickup for customers, and the NLC has taken their products as well.

They’re offering cans and growlers to customers.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Split Rock has had to suspend its tap room and restaurant services.

“Craft beer is starting to take over the province and we’ve tried our best to accommodate our customers,” said Split Rock brewery partner and manager Tim Vatcher. “We have to adapt, like a lot of businesses have.”

For them, this process has been a smooth transition, but it also comes when the brewery had built a solid reputation in the craff beer community and was looking to build on that momentum.

“It is trying,” said Vatcher. “Craft beer is just getting bigger and bigger, and we’re fortunate in our business where we can export.”

Christopher Johnson is co-owner and brewer with Rough Waters Brewing Co. in Deer Lake. A new company, it also adopted curbside pickup as a way to keep selling beer during the pandemic. Saltwire Network file photo
Christopher Johnson is co-owner and brewer with Rough Waters Brewing Co. in Deer Lake. A new company, it also adopted curbside pickup as a way to keep selling beer during the pandemic. Saltwire Network file photo

Being the only craft brewery in central Newfoundland, Split Rock has been getting orders for pickup and delivery from places like Lewisporte and Gander.

The pandemic has cut down on the number of places beer drinkers can find cans of Rough Waters Brewing Co.

The relatively new Deer Lake brewery has been forced to close its tap room and lounge area, along with cancelling a number of events aimed at showcasing that part of its building, because of the restrictions implemented by the provincial government.

Those restrictions have also caused two places where Rough Waters sold its products to close their doors, limiting them to just one NLC location in Deer Lake.

“It's been a pretty big hit,” said co-owner and brewer Christopher Johnson.

Rough Waters has been getting its products into the one store it can, preparing online orders from the NLC and doing curbside

pickups.

These challenges come at a time when the brewery was focused on building its brand and making strides in attracting new drinkers to its products.

Instead, it has been forced to look at ways to keep brewing beer as sale returns have gotten smaller.

It doesn’t yet qualify for any of the federal business relief programs, and Rough Waters has been looking at any corporate funding it can.

“We’re doing our best to push through,” said Johnson.

Nicholas Mercer is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering Central Newfoundland for SaltWire Network.

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