Vermont brewers brace for summer months full of uncertainty


It may be a while before you can enjoy your favorite craft beer in a bar setting and if the pandemic continues for months, many breweries are at risk of closing for good.

“At some point you’re looking at, ‘Can you go on at all?” said Bill Cherry, founder of Switchback Brewing.

That’s the question a lot of Vermont brewers are asking these days. Craft beer is a big part of the Green Mountain State’s charm, but with restaurants and bars closed down, it’s creating a strain. At Switchback, those sales generate more than half their business.

“There’s a lot of worry on our end about what’s going to happen,” Cherry said. “It feels like things aren’t going to go back to normal by summer.”

He’s been spending most of his time figuring out how they can trim expenses in order to operate in the months ahead. With the tap room closed, he says they’re running at only 35% their usual function. Cherry says even when things start to reopen, tourism won’t be heavy, and sales will only creep upward.

“Best case scenario, we’re still a reduced company while the economy rebuilds,” he said. “We need to be conscious of that and careful.”

To bring in some business during these times, Switchback and many other breweries are offering curbside pickup as a way to share their beer with Vermonters. At Green Empire Brewing, staff say being proactive was a priority in making sure the beer could keep flowing.

“Just whatever we could do to get it to the customer,” said co-founder Dave Bombard. “Luckily Governor Scott announced on a Friday that we could do delivery and we were set up Monday to get running with it.”

“Brewers are good about making things up as we go, small brewers in particular,” Cherry said. “You work with what you got and solve problems.”

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