The vitality of the craft-beer scene in central Ohio is fueled by the passion among central Ohioans for high-quality local brews.

As the industry has necessarily adapted to health restrictions and guidelines in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, customers have followed suit.

"Our entire model is based on selling pints of beer over the bar six days a week," said Mike Byrne, co-owner and brewmaster at Lineage Brewing in Clintonville.

But as the brewery has pivoted its delivery mechanisms to online ordering and curbside pickup, "sales have been strong enough to help us pay some bills and collect tips for the employees," Byrne said.

Unable to offer libations to customers in taprooms, many brewers either created or enhanced existing carryout-sales platforms, offering growlers (refillable glass or steel containers) or crowlers (32-ounce cans that can be filled and sealed on-site) exclusively.

"It has been a successful approach in that our customers appreciate that we are remaining open and making beer pickup a contactless, simple experience," said Tom Ayers, co-owner of Powell's Ill Mannered Brewing Co. "Our staff wear gloves and masks and sanitize surfaces between every pickup, and everything is paid for prior to pickup."

In Delaware, Staas Brewing Co. co-owner Liz Staas also said her brewery was selling growlers online, with once-weekly curbside pickup.

Lineage also shifted to online ordering and curbside pickup for crowlers and reduced hours and staff. In addition, the brewery suspended food service.

Early uncertainty surrounding sales led to conservative approaches, at least initially, regarding beer production, as well.

Zaftig Brewing Co., which operates a production space and taproom in Worthington and a pub in Italian Village, shut down production to allow demand to play catch-up.

"Production stopped completely, as we had large quantities of product that we had to sell through," co-owner Jason Blevins said. "The carryout option allowed us to move much of this product and prevented us from dumping any beer."

Blevins said Zaftig's Italian Village location has been completely closed since Gov. Mike DeWine began instituting statewide business closures in mid-March because of the pandemic.

"With a few thousand gallons of beer in our inventory, we were able to focus moving much of the product to our taproom for howler (a half-sized growler), growler and crowler fills," he said.

Blevins said Zaftig only recently has resumed brewing.

Both Zaftig and Ill Mannered have continued to partner with food trucks to allow customers to get food while at their facilities for beer-order pickup.

None of the brewers at Zaftig, Ill Mannered, Staas or Lineage reported supply-chain concerns, save for the sudden rush on carryout containers.

Blevins said he has heard of some brewers struggling to find yeast, but Zaftig hasn't experienced that.

"We are seeing a major slowdown in the availability of containers like growlers and howlers," he said. "As we brew more in the coming weeks, time will tell if ingredients are in short supply."

"Growlers can be hard to come by. Fortunately, we have an order processing now and should arrive soon," Staas said. "Our brewing production slowed considerably in the beginning, but over the last three weeks, we've returned to a somewhat normal brewing schedule."

"Our main hurdle has been acquiring more crowler cans," Byrne said.

"The suppliers weren't expecting 8,000 breweries to all order pallets of these cans all at once, but that is exactly what happened.

"We were lucky to have been able to co-op a limited number of cans through the help of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association and Grove City Brewing Co., but we were forced to close for two weeks as the order was delayed and we ran out of our supply," he said.

"We currently have another order in that we placed four weeks ago and that is currently delayed, as well.

"I'm hopeful we will get that order before we run out again."

As for many central Ohio residents, sanitary items, such as gloves and masks, are hard to find for breweries, too.

"Our raw-materials supply chain has been just fine with the exception of things like certain chemicals, gloves, masks ... that we use daily," Ayers said.

Byrne reported similar difficulties in obtaining sanitation and cleaning supplies.

"Gloves, hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies ... until recently have been very difficult, if not impossible to find," he said.

Cleanliness always has been a primary concern for breweries, Blevins said, and it obviously will remain so moving forward.

"I believe that breweries were already good at sanitation in the production side but will have to focus more into the public space, as well," he said.

"How we were operating in the weeks leading up to the shutdown ... we had instituted extra sanitization, gloves, checkout procedures. We will also be adding masks to the mix once we are able to open," Ayers said.

"I've always taken pride with how clean we've kept Lineage," Byrne said.

"However, in early March, we created a formal cleaning and sanitizing program. It outlined everything that needs cleaned and sanitized on a regular basis, which sanitizers are to be used on what surfaces, proper contact times and dilution rates.

"Going forward, this will now be our standard operating procedure."

As Ohio begins to open up its economic activity, breweries are preparing for a "new normal," with reduced occupancy, taproom sanitation and continued emphasis on online ordering and carryout options on the minds of decision-makers.

"We are anticipating a greatly reduced occupancy," Byrne said. "The obvious changes will be seating arrangements, such as greater distances between tables, removing seats and disposable or no physical menus at all.

"I see a reduced kitchen menu, new reduced operating hours and, unfortunately, a smaller staff. Though unlikely we can afford it, canning our beer is something we are also looking into. Finding new ways to bring in revenue will be something we will need to focus on."

Staas said the company is taking things one day at a time, though health is the main concern.

"We are realistic and know that bars will likely be the last businesses given the approval to reopen, so we are doing our best to settle into this new normal without high expectations as to when we can reopen the taproom," she said.

Staas said the brewery will continue its e-commerce activity begun in response to the current restrictions.

Breweries reported varying success in obtaining Paycheck Protection Program loans or other assistance through the Small Business Association made available to businesses impacted by COVID-19.

Lineage was approved and was able to rehire staff and implement limited food-carryout service.

Zaftig was approved for funds for its production facility but still is waiting to hear about its Italian Village location.

Ill Mannered has not received aid, but Ayers is hopeful additional funding to the program might change their fortune, he said.

Staas said the SBA online application process was backed up for a while and that the brewery has not applied since the additional funding was authorized.

In the end, Staas said, it is the brewery's customers who have seen it through these times -- and will in the future.

"The biggest takeaway for us was realizing how many people really love the brewery and that the community has our back," she said.

"The support has been overwhelming and inspiring."

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