Amid COVID-related shutdowns and shifting regulations, Salt Lake City breweries had to adapt over the last year — and creativity plus a healthy dose of humor went a long way in achieving that.
Several breweries used the opportunity to release limited edition brews that alluded to the craziness of the pandemic. They found that the timeliness of these aptly-named beers helped them fly off the shelves.
When the first round of $1,200 stimulus checks was distributed in April, 2 Row Brewing released a limited edition beer called Stimulus Check IPA, a 10% ABV New England-meets-West Coast style IPA with a big fruity flavor.
“We’ve found that if you name the beer properly, something that might have some sort of current event around it and gets people riled up, they tend to buy the beer,” explained Brian Coleman, founder of 2 Row.
The beer was such a hit, that 2 Row released three different batches of it, which all sold out. Coleman wants to make the recipe a permanent beer, but doesn’t know if the name “Stimulus Check” will have the same effect several years down the road.
Another limited released, Quarantine Buddy, also sold out in record time at 2 Row.
“At the time, everything was shut down so everybody was in quarantine, so if you had to go home and drink by yourself, you could still drink with a buddy,” quipped Coleman.
Without a taproom, Coleman said the brewery wasn’t impacted as much as others when the pandemic hit, though it did delay plans to move to a bigger facility that would allow them to ramp up production and host a taproom.
Shades Brewing wasn’t so lucky. When the first shutdown began, the brewery had to close its doors and lost 70 percent of its business from taproom sales and bar and restaurant accounts.
“We’ve tried to be creative and relevant to offer value to our customers. We came up with a quarantine pack, so people were buying and picking up cases of beer instead of six packs,” said Alexandra Ortiz de Fargher, who owns Shades Brewing with her husband, Trend Fargher.
They were also left with a large batch of their specialty kveik and no restaurants and bars to take it. So the Farghers decided to split the sour beer into four limited edition flavors. Soon after, Salt Lake Valley was rocked with a 5.7 magnitude earthquake from the epicenter outside Magna followed by several aftershocks, and Shades’ Earthquake beer series was born.
Shockwave features a black current infusion; Epicenter, mango chili; Aftershock, strawberry banana; and Magna-tude orange ginger. The beers sold out in just two hours.
“We had award winning beers in that category already. Before we only did them once a month, so we had already started to build a following of people who love sour beers,” explained Ortiz de Fargher. “At the same time, it was a very timely event and situation that we’re all going through. We’re all going through the shutdowns, we’re all going through an earthquake.”
Ultimately, Shades released 44 limited edition beers in 2020 to keep business flowing during the pandemic — double their normal output. With the schedule and process in place to up the ante on limited releases, they plan to keep up the pace even when the pandemic is over.
“We didn’t realize how much people loved to try new things and varieties. It keeps things fresh and interesting. We are continuing that,” said Ortiz de Fargher.
As an added bonus, the strawberry banana-infused Aftershock from the Earthquake series will be re-released in March to mark the anniversary of the earthquake that rocked an already stressed out Salt Lake City during a global pandemic. Cheers to that.
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