In March, Island brewers would take time to reflect on the previous summer and plan for how they will make the most of the coming warmer months. The influx of tourists means that brewers sell more beer. During the summer, kegs cannot be collected, cleaned and filled quickly enough. Bottle and can fillers work hard to keep up with demand. Beer taps usually flow all season, giving talented Island brewers the opportunity to showcase their products. The summer of 2020 will very much be an exception to this.
As with everyone else across the globe, day-to-day work for brewers took an unexpected turn mid-March. The magnitude of the situation settled in over the first few days. Brewers realized that this summer would be very different. With the closure of bars and restaurants, the draft beer market evaporated in a matter of days. The closure of most PEI Liquor Stores meant the packaged beer market had been greatly reduced as well.
Fortunately, thanks to quick moving initiatives of the provincial government and PEI Liquor Commission, brewers were provided with a platform to sell their beers in a couple of new and innovative ways. One of the first big shifts that allowed brewers to keep selling beer was the approval to launch online retail shops. Beer drinkers could access their favourite brewery’s website and place an order for beer from the comfort of their own homes. To purchase, customers could either enter most brewery retail shops or choose contact-free pick-up for online orders.
The second change that allowed Island brewers to remain connected with customers, at a safe physical distance, was the home delivery option. This initiative allowed brewers to deliver beer tip-to-tip on PEI, many requiring a minimum purchase for free delivery service. Brewery drivers logged more kilometers in a matter of months than they have in previous years. Though allowance of brewery direct deliveries is a temporary measure, there is pressure from Island brewers on the government to make this a permanent policy.
Fortunately now, with the phased opening up, draft beer has been reintroduced, but brewers still see a fraction heading to bars and restaurants. With the availability of online shopping and direct delivery across the Island, I highly recommend people placing orders with different breweries throughout the summer to try the ever growing selection of great beers being produced here on PEI, all while maintaining a safe social distance.