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Breweries hit hard in Minnesota during the pandemic

Breweries lost millions over the past year due to COVID-19.
Updated: Apr. 10, 2021 at 10:34 PM CDT
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - It is no secret that businesses of all kinds were challenged by the pandemic but perhaps none more than breweries across the state. According to a study by the University of Minnesota the Minnesota economy lost over $180 million in economic activity from breweries alone from COVID-19. Loss of traffic, sales and a can shortage were just some of the factors contributing to this loss. Large breweries like Shell’s in New Ulm were hit hard as well.

“When the executive orders came down we lost 45 percent of our business essentially overnight,” vice president of operations at Schell’s Brewery Kyle Marti said.

Breweries had to close their doors to the public and had to rely heavily on distribution to liquor stores and out of door sales. Tim Tupy the founder of Mankato Brewery in North Mankato says that this kept the brewery going during the last year.

“What we looked at doing during the pandemic is looking to do more packaged sales,” Tupy said. “Obviously we have a canning line so trying to promote our beer, having people go out in liquor stores to purchase it that is a big push for us.”

Not all breweries were able to lean as much on their own sales. Larger breweries like Schell’s have had to deal with something called a growler cap which does not allow breweries who brew more than 20,000 barrels of beer per year to sell growlers. Schell’s is hoping to produce 115,000 barrels this year.

This is something that lawmakers are working on now.

“Just allowing more flexibility would really help and allow Minnesota Breweries a longer runway and to get their business off the ground,” State Representative from Crystal Lake Jeremy Munson said.

The counter argument is that some smaller breweries and liquor stores fear that their business might be affected by the sale of the growlers at the larger level.

“We will support any deal that has the two sides agreeing to compromise,” DFL senator from North Mankato Nick Frentz said. “But I am reluctant to vote on a result that will jam a result down one side or the other’s throat.”

The debate will continue on whether or not to pass the cap but for now breweries of all sizes are still limiting their capacities, selling what they can and maintaining their distributions.

So even after a rough last year breweries are optimistic about the future. They are looking to rebuild and recover from the pandemic.

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