Selling beer straight from the door and being thankful for the “saints” buying gift cards is how this Saint Louis, Missouri brewery is handing the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new reality at Rockwell Beer Company. Photo courtesy of Rockwell Brewing Company.
The bar at this brewery is usually reserved for special events and it seems like what’s happening this week counts as such. Jonathan Moxey, the head brewer for Rockwell Beer Co., rolled it out of the events space earlier today, into the garage bay near the Missouri brewery’s packaging hall, and set up for impromptu to-go sales. The brewery had started this practice over the weekend and kept it going Monday, a day it is usually closed.
Word came down on Sunday Night from the Saint Louis mayor that gatherings of more than 50 people would be prohibited for the next eight weeks. Moxey says that since upwards of 90 percent of the brewery’s business is done from the taproom, they are gearing up for some tough times but will do whatever they can in the meantime to get their beer to the people.
“I got hired by [the financial firm] Standard and Poors in December of 2007 and honestly this feels a lot like that,” he said of the 2008 financial crisis. He, like so many others at the time, used downtime created by the recession to turn his homebrewing into a professional career.
As he sells to-go orders to folks that drive up and use the touchless credit card reader (no cash and wipe downs after each interaction), Moxey said in a phone interview that first and foremost, he’s worried about his staff that will still need to pay rent, no matter what happens next.
There are four people on the production staff, one on sales, and eight working front of house. Last year the brewery produced about 2,000 barrels.
“We also want to keep everyone safe,” he says. “Figuring out what to do is almost an impossible decision beyond that.”
In addition to can sales he is also immensely thankful to “the saints who are buying gift cards.”
On the production side some planned brewdays for later this week, like wheat, have been called off. He noted that they will eat the cost of a yeast pitch but that it’s a small financial sacrifice in the short term.
“We’re not making IPA [for the foreseeable future]. We’ll package what we have ready. But our lagers are seven week turns so we’ll keep those going. It’s obviously hard to forecast demand but we’re hoping that if the world makes it to summer, we’ll have some lager,” he says.
That is a hope we all share.