With most of America self-isolating for the foreseeable future, the busiest cities in America have turned into ghost towns, which poses a unique challenge for bars, restaurants, and craft breweries.

On the government’s list of “essential” businesses, taprooms fall under the same category as grocery stores so they are able to remain open for “beer-to-go” sales. Breweries’ lights stay on for now, but with the closing of bars, clubs and restaurants, there are serious questions about the volatility that will occur in the coming months.

We spoke with Andrew Coplon, a founder of Secret Hopper, a mystery shopping service for craft breweries, to ask him some of the toughest questions facing independent brewers, including: Is the “craft beer bubble” about to pop?

What are the biggest areas of concerns that you see breweries facing during health crisis?

The greatest concerns I am seeing are: 

  • How do we innovate in order to keep revenue coming in?
  • How do we continue to engage with our guests when they’re not able to have the taproom experience?
  • How do we prepare our brewing system for a potential extended period of down time?
  • How do we handle our staff?

What will be the biggest shifts in strategies breweries/distilleries will need to take to help lessen the blow?

Breweries will need to shift a greater focus to the “business” side of the operation. This will include everything from creating innovative, new strategies that introduce new revenue streams while maximizing all traditional methods, to diving deeper into the accounting side of the brewery to not only reduce costs where able but also better understand how this information can help them prepare for the future. The past decade of craft beer has highly been defined by brewing well-made beers, the next decade will be defined by breweries that can successfully run a business.

Has the passing of Beer to Go helped lessen the blow of tap rooms and restaurants not being open?

Yes, while it does not cover the loss of revenue for taproom sales, it does help minimize the loss.

Editors Note: this question was asked in reference to Texas becoming the last state to pass this as a law in 2019.

People love to throw around the “craft beer bubble”, will this prolonged shutdown be the event that finally does pop the bubble?

This prolonged shutdown will not pop the bubble. I do not believe we are in a bubble. There is still opportunity for more breweries as long as those breweries find their niche in the market. However, this current situation will show which breweries have a strong infrastructure and acumen know how to withstand the shutdown.

Have you launched any initiatives to help protect your brand during this crisis?

Via Secret Hopper, our business model relies highly on taproom being open. It is our main goal to help breweries maximize their portion of their experience. To pivot during this unusual time, we have built and launched Virtual Taproom. Virtual Taproom is the only video chat network where you can be connected one-on-one to like-minded craft beer enthusiasts or take a seat at your favorite brewery’s Virtual Taproom. The goal is to provide a way to still bring people together during these tough times.  

The First Ever Craft Beer Professional Virtual Conference

In addition to being a founder of the Secret Hopper, Andrew, is an administrator on a popular Facebook group for Craft Beer Professionals. As a result of the COVID pandemic that has affected the world, the Craft Beer Conference that was scheduled for San Antonio will be held as a virtual conference on the Craft Beer Professionals Facebook group April 20-22. If you are interested in attending or want more information please visit their page.

Have you seen our behind the scenes look at the Bourbon Trail?

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