Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia microbreweries raise a toast to home deliveries amid pandemic

Nova Scotia's craft brewers say home deliveries have become a lifeline for their businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. While few breweries offered home delivery pre-pandemic, the practice became much more common once the pandemic hit.

'It's been a game changer for us,' says Jeremy White of Big Spruce Brewing in Nyanza

Jeremy White of Big Spruce in Cape Breton says hospitality sales are down roughly 70 per cent, so offering delivery has been huge to the business's success. (Matthew Moore/CBC)

Nova Scotia's craft brewers say home deliveries have become a lifeline for their businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While few breweries offered home delivery pre-pandemic, the practice became much more common after the province declared a state of emergency in March, ordered bars to close and allowed restaurants to only offer takeout and delivery.

"We did have to shut our taproom down for three months and keg sales to restaurants and bars halted, so it was a very nerve-wracking time," said Breton Brewing co-founder Bryan MacDonald. "And we definitely saw impacts on our business over the last half of the year."

Home deliveries meant the Sydney River brewery kept staff employed.

"When everyone was staying at home, this was a very good thing for us," said MacDonald.

Home deliveries have been integral to surviving the COVID-19 pandemic, say several Nova Scotian craft breweries. (Matthew Moore/CBC)

Brian Titus, vice-president of the Craft Brewers Association of Nova Scotia and president of Garrison Brewing Company in Halifax, said home deliveries aren't likely to disappear anytime soon.

"It has allowed, I would say, each brewery to pivot in its own way," he said.

Craft breweries say keg sales to bars and restaurants took a hit this year after those establishments were forced to close. (Richard Woodbury/CBC)

Jeremy White of Big Spruce Brewing in Nyanza said home deliveries skyrocketed in March, April and May. 

They eventually tapered off in June and virtually disappeared in July through September.

But in the weeks leading up to the holidays, White said online traffic started to pick up.

That's good news for the brewery, as hospitality sales are down roughly 70 per cent.

Brian Titus is the owner of Garrison Brewing in Halifax and the vice-president of the Craft Brewers Association of Nova Scotia. (Blair Sanderson/CBC)

"It's been a game changer for us," said White. "As far as total revenue, it's absolutely replaced what we lost as a supplier to restaurants and bars. But it is a pretty expensive way of getting beer to people."

Many breweries in the province have been offering delivery services for free.

NSLC looking to get in on delivery action

The NSLC is also considering delivery for its top-sellers and products made locally.

The Crown corporation is aiming for a spring 2021 start.

"Home delivery, online ordering, that's sort of an industry standard across retail," said spokesperson Beverley Ware.

Ware said a tender seeking information on possible delivery partners was posted in October. 

Submitted applications are now in the process of being reviewed.

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With files from Matthew Moore

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