RI breweries adapt to COVID-19 restrictions

Among many other industries, breweries in Rhode Island are being hit hard by COVID-19 restrictions.

WARWICK, R.I. (WLNE) – As restaurants, bars, and taprooms have been shut down due to COVID-19 restrictions, breweries in Rhode Island are coming up with new ways to survive.

Beer-makers in the state are adapting by shifting to online pre-orders and curbside pickup.

“When it first happened we didn’t know if we were just gonna close completely or what was gonna happen,” said Dave Witham, owner of Proclamation Ale Company in Warwick.

Proclamation has taken advantage of the current climate, creating beers with COVID-19 phrases, like Governor Gina Raimondo’s “Knock It Off”.


“We don’t know what to expect the next day. We kind of just take it as it comes,” said Witham.

The brewery partnered with Frog & Toad, the company that created the now-famous “Knock If Off” logo on their t-shirts, to create the IPA’s label.

For every 4-pack sold, $2 will be donated to the Rhode Island Foundation’s COVID-19 response fund that helps local non-profits.

Gary Richardson, executive director of the Rhode Island Brewers Guild, said there are 29 breweries that sell beer in the state, and most have shifted to curbside pickup.

“(COVID-19) virtually shut them down for the normal pours and tastings in the taprooms. The only way our breweries have been making money right now is to sell either cans or some sell glass bottles of cold growlers.”

Richardson said the Guild is also in a tough spot as they rely on festivals for their revenue. So far, of the three festivals the organization attends a year, one has been canceled.

He said while breweries are shifting to canning, smaller ones can’t, and those who have kegs might need to throw out their extra beer.

“Some of it’s gonna go to waste. It doesn’t last all that long, especially beer that’s freshly made. You want to drink it in the first month or so. So if this keeps on going much longer, you’re gonna get to the point where they are gonna have to pour out quite a bit of beer,” Richardson said.

According to a nationwide survey from the Brewers Association, more than 40% of breweries can only last between one and three months in this current economic state, and just over 12% can last another few weeks.

“The ones who are able to sell cans and bottles and so forth, I think they can at least stay afloat. The smaller ones, or the ones that don’t have a canning line or aren’t able to produce any beer to sell, they very well may close their doors.”

© WLNE-TV 2020

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