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Stacks of canned beer are ready to go as Luke Krall uses a forklift to move kegs at Sunriver Brewing Company’s production facility in Sunriver. 03/19/21. (Photo by Dean Guernsey/The Bulletin)

No one has to remind craft brewer Packy Deenihan that he must remain flexible and innovative. It’s an integral part of his business plan. Brewers innovate with flavors all the time. The past year is no exception. Some used the COVID-19 period of great disruption as a time to renovate, revamp and rebrand. Others used the time to shift to selling more packaged products to consumers because their keg sales were depressed by restaurant closures or limited capacity imposed by the government as a way to contain the spread of the virus. The results of their work line store shelves, jockeying with the next brewer for consumer attention. In 2020, more than 1.14 million

barrels of malted beverages were sold in Oregon by 224

brewers, compared to 1.46

million barrels sold in 2019 by 265

brewers, according to data provided by the

. “No one knows what the distribution (difference) is between packaged beer versus keg beer,” said

Deenihan, president and co-owner of Bend Brewing Co. “I think it will still tilt toward packaged beer. A large part of the community still feels safer at home.” As the number of positive COVID-19 cases wane and fewer people die from the virus, brewers are seeing draft beer sales increase

. At the height of the pandemic when deaths and cases soared, draft beer sales at Bend Brewing Co. w

ere nearly zero, Deenihan said. They are also seeing sales from their collaborations. On March 19, Bend Brewing Co. and Newport Avenue Market released a limited-release beer to benefit the Hunger Prevention Coalition of Central Oregon. A portion of the sale of every 4-pack goes to the coalition. While partnerships, or beer for a purpose,

are not unusual, it is unusual for a grocery store to partner with a brewer. “Two big iconic super-local businesses collaborating,” Deenihan said. “It’s unique for a brewery to collaborate with a grocery store. Normally we collaborate with other breweries

, but this one really works.” At the start of the pandemic, it became quickly apparent that brewers needed their product in consumer-ready packages, said Christina LaRue, Oregon Brewers Association executive director. Quickly they had to rev up their canning lines, obtain more cans or hire a mobile canner. “There are more cans out there now, but there’s only so much retail space in the market or bottle shops,” she said. “That won’t change. For every brewer who falls off the shelf, there’s another to replace it.” At established large breweries like Deschutes Brewery and Sunriver Brewing Co., they were able to shift easily. At Boneyard Beer, which is now under the Deschutes Brewery umbrella, the brewery had to ramp up canning plans because keg sales were nearly extinct. Some of the larger breweries will be able to keep up, La Rue said. Others will have to juggle. “Everyone is pretty tentative right now,” La Rue said. “We’ve seen in the past 12 months how quickly things can change. Resilience is the main lesson from the past 12 months. The craft brewing industry will hold on to that. “They’ve learned how to adapt and change and not to jump too quickly.” Draft beer sales are increasing every day, said Michael LaLonde, Deschutes Brewery CEO. It’s a question

of managing production schedules between bottles

or cans and draft that’s based upon demand, LaLonde said. “With the reopening of the on-premise sales, our keg racking line is super busy,” LaLonde said. “Everyone is cranking away, working hard to deliver to demand.” At Sunriver Brewing, with most of the company’s sales only in Oregon, the nine-year-old brewery sold slightly less sudsy brew in 2020 than the year before, according to the OLCC beer report. The company hopes to sell more than 16,000 barrel this year, said Ryan Duley, Sunriver Brewing director of sales and marketing. A barrel of beer is about 31 gallons. It’s been a big unknown when draft sales would ramp back up, Duley said. But since restaurants and bars have reopened, draft sales have been steadily increasing in Sunriver, Duley said. The brewery sells about 60% of its beer in cans and 40% in kegs, he said. One of the biggest challenges for breweries has been finding employees as demand has grown, he said. It’s not a quick turnaround to make beer and get newly hired employees on board. “We’ve actually been on an upward growth since before COVID,” Duley said. “Obviously sales dipped down early on, but we’re now staffing coming out of COVID.” Because of the employee shortage, Sunriver is shorting a couple of distributors for draft beer to maintain production in cans. The rationale is that they can get on tap in a month or two especially since tap handles are generally rotated. Keeping shelf space in front of the consumer is important to maintaining sales. “There’s strength in both draft and can sales,” Duley said. “We have an opportunity right now to get another product in a can. It was strategic in a way for us to release our rotation of seasonal beers in a can.” The rotational beers are recipes the brewery had been developing for draft in the pubs, Duley said. Now it’s in a can, a decision made in part because of COVID-19, but also a way to increase capacity. “The pandemic hasn’t affected too much,” Duley said. “We have always been able to zig and zag. We’re definitely set up for crisis aversion now and are prepared for something like that. We know we can maneuver when a disruption happens.”

No one has to remind craft brewer Packy Deenihan that he must remain flexible and innovative.

It’s an integral part of his business plan.

Brewers innovate with flavors all the time. The past year is no exception. Some used the COVID-19 period of great disruption as a time to renovate, revamp and rebrand. Others used the time to shift to selling more packaged products to consumers because their keg sales were depressed by restaurant closures or limited capacity imposed by the government as a way to contain the spread of the virus.

The results of their work line store shelves, jockeying with the next brewer for consumer attention. In 2020, more than 1.14 million barrels of malted beverages were sold in Oregon by 224 brewers, compared to 1.46 million barrels sold in 2019 by 265 brewers, according to data provided by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

“No one knows what the distribution (difference) is between packaged beer versus keg beer,” said Deenihan, president and co-owner of Bend Brewing Co. “I think it will still tilt toward packaged beer. A large part of the community still feels safer at home.”

As the number of positive COVID-19 cases wane and fewer people die from the virus, brewers are seeing draft beer sales increase . At the height of the pandemic when deaths and cases soared, draft beer sales at Bend Brewing Co. were nearly zero, Deenihan said. They are also seeing sales from their collaborations.

On March 19, Bend Brewing Co. and Newport Avenue Market released a limited-release beer to benefit the Hunger Prevention Coalition of Central Oregon. A portion of the sale of every 4-pack goes to the coalition.

While partnerships, or beer for a purpose, are not unusual, it is unusual for a grocery store to partner with a brewer.

“Two big iconic super-local businesses collaborating,” Deenihan said. “It’s unique for a brewery to collaborate with a grocery store. Normally we collaborate with other breweries, but this one really works.”

At the start of the pandemic, it became quickly apparent that brewers needed their product in consumer-ready packages, said Christina LaRue, Oregon Brewers Association executive director. Quickly they had to rev up their canning lines, obtain more cans or hire a mobile canner.

“There are more cans out there now, but there’s only so much retail space in the market or bottle shops,” she said. “That won’t change. For every brewer who falls off the shelf, there’s another to replace it.”

At established large breweries like Deschutes Brewery and Sunriver Brewing Co., they were able to shift easily. At Boneyard Beer, which is now under the Deschutes Brewery umbrella, the brewery had to ramp up canning plans because keg sales were nearly extinct. Some of the larger breweries will be able to keep up, La Rue said. Others will have to juggle.

“Everyone is pretty tentative right now,” La Rue said. “We’ve seen in the past 12 months how quickly things can change. Resilience is the main lesson from the past 12 months. The craft brewing industry will hold on to that.

“They’ve learned how to adapt and change and not to jump too quickly.”

Draft beer sales are increasing every day, said Michael LaLonde, Deschutes Brewery CEO. It’s a question of managing production schedules between bottles or cans and draft that’s based upon demand, LaLonde said.

“With the reopening of the on-premise sales, our keg racking line is super busy,” LaLonde said. “Everyone is cranking away, working hard to deliver to demand.”

At Sunriver Brewing, with most of the company’s sales only in Oregon, the nine-year-old brewery sold slightly less sudsy brew in 2020 than the year before, according to the OLCC beer report. The company hopes to sell more than 16,000 barrel this year, said Ryan Duley, Sunriver Brewing director of sales and marketing. A barrel of beer is about 31 gallons.

It’s been a big unknown when draft sales would ramp back up, Duley said. But since restaurants and bars have reopened, draft sales have been steadily increasing in Sunriver, Duley said. The brewery sells about 60% of its beer in cans and 40% in kegs, he said.

One of the biggest challenges for breweries has been finding employees as demand has grown, he said. It’s not a quick turnaround to make beer and get newly hired employees on board.

“We’ve actually been on an upward growth since before COVID,” Duley said. “Obviously sales dipped down early on, but we’re now staffing coming out of COVID.”

Because of the employee shortage, Sunriver is shorting a couple of distributors for draft beer to maintain production in cans. The rationale is that they can get on tap in a month or two especially since tap handles are generally rotated. Keeping shelf space in front of the consumer is important to maintaining sales.

“There’s strength in both draft and can sales,” Duley said. “We have an opportunity right now to get another product in a can. It was strategic in a way for us to release our rotation of seasonal beers in a can.”

The rotational beers are recipes the brewery had been developing for draft in the pubs, Duley said. Now it’s in a can, a decision made in part because of COVID-19, but also a way to increase capacity.

“The pandemic hasn’t affected too much,” Duley said. “We have always been able to zig and zag. We’re definitely set up for crisis aversion now and are prepared for something like that. We know we can maneuver when a disruption happens.”

Reporter: 541-633-2117,

sroig@bendbulletin.com

Reporter: 541-633-2117,

sroig@bendbulletin.com

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