The COVID-19 pandemic has hit most local businesses hard, but for craft breweries in the Ottawa Valley business has been up and down since mid-March.
"We are working definitely more than twice as much as pre-COVID," says Cartwright Springs Brewery owner Andre Rieux. "The demand for cans has increased. For us, it is more than ten-fold. That’s ten times more cans than we used to sell."
Before the pandemic, much of Cartwright Springs business flowed through keg sales at restaurants. Once COVID-19 hit and restaurants closed, that revenue was cut off, then sales for individual cans of beer soared.
"It’s just shocking how much we’ve sold. It really is," says Jenneth Boudreau, the taproom manager at the Calabogie location of Calabogie Springs Brewing Company. "I think it helps a lot, people getting together again now that there’s Stage 3 open. People want to get together, have a drink, they haven’t been able to for a long time."
The demand for cans is high, making them hard to come by. With new aluminum tariffs being imposed by the United States, the cost to have ready to use cans brought in is only expected to go up. "For us each can costs us 47.7 cents," says Rieux. "That’s a substantial amount of packaging costs."
The amount of work that goes into selling canned beer is also more than twice as much as selling kegs according to Rieux, who runs his brewery out of Pakenham.
"It’s a lot easier to deliver 200 litres of beer to one address in the form of kegs, than to put everything into cans, split them up into different packages because people like variety, and then deliver all the way to the city."
Since Ontario entered Stage 3 of the COVID-19 reopening plan, keg sales have kicked back up for Calabogie Brewing and Cartwright Springs, but there’s fears that with the end of patio season looming, that business will dry up once again.
"They’re going to be at half capacity indoors, without any patios," says Rieux. "The beer sales are definitely going to go down."