Taproom Tips for the Chilly Season

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From the Tap: Musings from the Taproom Committee

As colder weather sweeps across much of the U.S., many taprooms are preparing for what might be the most challenging season they’ve ever faced. With COVID-19 restrictions in place, and as quarantine and social distancing guidelines continue or even increase, taprooms are doing all they can to prepare for the chilly season ahead.

In Staunton, Virginia at Redbeard Brewing Company, owner Jon Wright has taken a few steps to get ready, including ordering additional outside tables and patio heaters (a second order after the first shipment fell off of a truck!), which he hopes to only have to use sparingly as he keeps his fingers crossed for a mild winter.

In Frederick, Colorado, on the other hand, Michelle Yovich of Mountain Cowboy Brewing Company is a bit less optimistic. With COVID-19 case numbers climbing locally, she anticipates another shutdown may be likely. In turn, she’s gearing up by getting lots of cans in stock and prepping for to-go coffee to keep customers warm. Most exciting, though, is the addition of an “igloo” that will be added to heaters on their existing large patio, and an old Airstream trailer that is being repurposed as a private party venue for small groups!

No stranger to the cold, Ben Millstein of Kodiak Island Brewing in Kodiak, Alaska notes that, “it’s just not worth trying to heat up the great outdoors” in his neck of the woods. While they do have a newly constructed deck, which they’ll be adding some additional lighting to for the long dark winter, they expect business to be slow for the next few months. Thankfully, his taproom sports a fireplace and wood stove, so he’s stocking up on firewood to keep those both roaring throughout the season.

A far cry from Alaska, Charles Frizzell of Broken Strings Brewery in Orlando, Florida is more concerned with the lack of tourists than the cold. Florida has been hit pretty hard by shutdowns and tourism has certainly suffered in his state, so while keeping patrons warm is less of a concern, keeping patrons coming certainly is.

Likewise, it’s been an unseasonably warm fall in Charlotte, North Carolina says Jacqueline “JP” Parker of Birdsong Brewing Company. She is using that to her advantage to work on expanding an outside patio, and notes that most patrons just don’t want to be inside right now. Bird Song is adding additional heaters and tables as well to make being outside more comfortable, but had a setback when additional heaters blew power fuses recently. It seems there’s always something to figure out in our taprooms, doesn’t it?

At my own brewery, Lake Anne Brew House, in Reston, Virginia, I’ll admit that we’re pretty nervous about the winter. We’ve had a recent cold snap that’s given us a taste of what the rest of winter might look like, and while we are working to install some high-powered electric outdoor heaters for our patio, as well as a pergola system to enclose additional outdoor space, we are a pretty tiny venue, and are quite limited by current social distancing guidelines and state regulations. All that said, we had a proposal at our brewery a few weeks ago, though the groom’s friends accidentally blew a circuit by plugging in both the string lights and extra heater to an already overloaded circuit…Despite it all, the proposal was a sweet reminder that folks love our taprooms, consider them special places to visit, and will continue to do their best to support us, even through these tough times.

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