Pouring beer into glass isolated on white (copy)

The pandemic played havoc with craft beer sales in Oregon in 2020 with many brewers reporting a decline in sales.

Brewers produced fewer kegs for restaurants and bars — an efficient and profitable measure of production — as the pandemic forced them to turn to canning and distribution to put more beer on grocery shelves.

The Oregon Brewers Guild reported 22% fewer barrels of beer were produced in 2020 over 2019, according to Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission data.

The Beer Institute, which represents large brewers, reported a 5% to 6% decline in total sales in Oregon, said Bart Watson, Brewers Association economist.

“The shift was challenging for smaller, local brewers who tend to sell a higher percentage of their volume onsite at their breweries and in draught (kegs) to local bars and restaurants,” Watson said.

“Oregon tends to have a slightly higher percentage of those sales as well, so this shift may have been particularly challenging for Oregon brewers.”

The OLCC reported that brewers sold 324,000 fewer barrels of beer in Oregon in 2020, compared to 2019.

Watson predicted that the coming year will show growth for the 312 Oregon craft brewers. Central Oregon has about 20 breweries.

“Sadly, Oregon craft beer sales were greatly impacted by COVID-19 closures and restrictions,” said Christina LaRue, Oregon Brewers Guild executive director, in an email.

“The recovery process has been slow due to the continuing issues from the pandemic, and the impact from those losses will be felt for years to come. Craft beer is a key part of Central Oregon’s economy and identity.”

Silver Moon Brewing, a downtown Bend brewery that is celebrating its 21st anniversary, had two things going for it at the time of the pandemic-related shutdowns in 2020.

Revenues from beer sales are split 75-25 in favor of cans over kegs. Silver Moon is distributed in eight states.

Still the pandemic-related shutdowns affected revenues, which dropped 30% in 2020 over the prior year, said James Watts, Silver Moon co-owner.

The brewery, however, only saw a 4% decline in distribution, Watts said.

“All of us were hit by the closures to some extent,” Watts said.

“We might be an anomaly, but we’ve had an outstanding summer.”

That’s partly because the pub added year-round outdoor seating and a food-cart pod area on a patio that allowed for physical distancing, Watts said.

Overall alcohol spending was down 12% in the United States, according to the Oregon Beverage Alliance, a trade group of brewers, wine makers, distillers and cider makers.

Other data supports the decline in sales, as well.

Nationally, beer sales at restaurants, bars and stadiums in 2020 fell by $28 billion, but grocery and convenience stores increased by $8 billion, according to the National Beer Wholesalers Association.

“COVID-19 put a damper on business, even though we pulled off a good summer,” Watts said.

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