There have been plenty of distressing stories of businesses going to the wall as COVID-19 lockdowns hit most countries around the world. True Respite Brewing Company in the US state of Maryland is the story of one business that saw the writing on the wall in the early days of the pandemic and decided to take a chance in face of uncertainty and open a lifeline to others in the craft brewing industry.
True Respite Brewing is a taproom, brewery and wholesaler to restaurants and bottle shops founded by Bailey and Brendan O’Leary – home brewers since 2008. Watching the rising COVID-19 cases and death toll in Italy, the O’Leary’s knew the pandemic would hit their business hard – with orders to shelter in place increasingly likely.
A direct to consumer online platform had been pitched to the O’Learys but wasn’t legal in Maryland. But in the face of rising uncertainty they pushed the go button on the development of the “Biermi” online in March. On 16 March the Maryland governor shuttered bars and restaurants and just three days later liquor laws were relaxed to allow to-go sales and delivery.
True Respite recognised the potential of the platform, and in the spirit of the collaborative craft brewer community decided to offer it to others in the industry – for free. I the first six weeks of operation over US$1 million in transactions have been processed through Biermi for more than 100 breweries, wineries, and distilleries in more than 24 states.
In early May, 85% of True Respite’s retail revenue is through Biermi, and while the O’Learys expect that to fall as taprooms re-open Home deliveries will be an ongoing fixture. Consumer comfort with online ordering and home delivery mean they will remain a supplement to taproom and wholesaling oerations and offer greater opportunities for consumer to sample a range of craft beers.
Biermi has been an innovation born of the tough times brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, but is likely to offer ongoing opportunities for diversification and growth for the founders and the craft beer community that has embraced it.