Despite a challenging summer, some of N.L.'s craft breweries are expanding

·3 min read
Secret Cove Brewing Company/Facebook
Secret Cove Brewing Company/Facebook

Newfoundland and Labrador's craft brewers faced a tough summer with the lack of tourism coming through towns and communities — and staycations that didn't quite make up for lost revenue.

But some have came up with other ways to increase revenue lost at bars, restaurants and their own tap rooms this year.

Port Rexton Brewing, Quidi Vidi Brewing Company and Secret Cove Brewing Company are well into expansions which will help boost sales down the line as winter months lead to a slow down in traffic.

Jason Hynes, co-owner of the Secret Cove Brewing Company in Port au Port east, said his business changed its model early on in the pandemic not knowing the kind of year that would lay ahead.

"When the pandemic started at the end of March we made the decision to purchase canning lines. We kind of got geared up. We anticipated a lot of change," Hynes said.

"Typically we are a tap room driven type of business, and that all changed this summer. We didn't have our normal summer, but given the circumstances it was still pretty good."

Secret Cove remained closed to the public for a large portion of the pandemic, offering curb-side pick up to customers while keeping its tap room shut. Hynes said by getting into packaging and shipping his company's products it helped make up for lost business, and earlier in November the brewery made its first shipment to the east coast of the island.

Port Rexton Brewing/Facebook
Port Rexton Brewing/Facebook

"It generated a lot more work. It was a big pivot for us, we had to do a shift for the business. We sat down, my wife and I, and we did a big evaluation and said 'what do we have to do to keep things going,'" said Hynes.

"There was a lot of uncertainty when it all started. We're busier now than we've ever been, believe it or not."

Expansions across the province

Sonja Mills, co-owner of Port Rexton Brewing, started expansion of her business well ahead of the pandemic — two years ago, in fact, but the pandemic slowed things down as the expansion reached its final stages.

A new building will now house the company's entire brewing operation. Mills said she's hoping it will be open by the holiday season.

"We did the first test batch last week, and we're going to kind of wait to see how that turns out," she said. Mills expects to be in 'proper operation' by the end of 2020.

In October provincial government officials announced breweries will be able to keep a few extra dollars on beer sold in stores, retail locations and tap rooms as part of a new program to help those businesses retain more money for reinvestment.

Submitted by Marilyn Boone
Submitted by Marilyn Boone

Mills said the announcement came at the perfect time.

"In our case it helps us get our expansion to the end and hopefully the other breweries will get opportunities to expand as well," Mills told CBC Radio's Weekend AM.

Mills said staycations were good for her business in August, and canned sales are holding steady, but sales at bars and restaurants have dropped.

Quidi Vidi Brewery owner Justin Fong echoed Mills's comments. Fong said his business has also seen numbers drop at venues, but canned business is keeping the numbers flat.

Quidi Vidi is also in the middle of an expansion — a large warehouse on Harbour View Avenue in St. John's to house and distribute beer that will also double as a retail shop.

The operation out of the new warehouse started in March, said Fong, but he's hoping the shop front will be open by early or mid-December.

"That's just going to be a big craft beer shop and we're hoping to carry all the beer from across Newfoundland," he said.

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