Eye on KELOLAND: Local breweries getting creative during pandemic

Eye on KELOLAND

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Small businesses in Sioux Falls are adapting to a new normal during this pandemic.

For local breweries, it’s a struggle to get people to the taproom to try out new brews. There’s also a nationwide can shortage limiting the amount of to-go options they can offer.

Remedy Brewing Company at 8th and Railroad opened up shop in 2017. Co-Founder Tyler Jepperson says a lot has changed since then thanks to COVID-19.

“The traffic is just down. It’s just nationwide. If you’ve looked at some of the data the city has released as far as sales tax revenue. The data doesn’t lie, people aren’t coming out as much,” Jepperson said.

Jepperson says business at the taproom is down 50-75-percent and that has him feeling uneasy.

“Not great. It makes you kind of tighten the belts and focus resources into areas which are some hope. We’re fortunate and some of our other friends in town, you can do canning. So we focus more resources there and expanding that territory. That can help make up for some of that lost revenue but it’s not going to bring back the taphouse dollars that are really what make a lot of our business model thrive,” Jepperson said.

Remedy has been busy rapidly expanding its business over the past three years. While that sounds scary now that we’re in a pandemic, they’re actually lucky. On top of this taproom, Remedy now has a production facility with a canning line.

“If you can get a canning line, even if you’re doing it by hand and getting some 16 oz. cans out of your taproom, you’re in a better position than just the open pint by pint basis,” Jepperson said.

He says demand for beer sold in stores is very high. Because of that, Remedy has been able to get its cans to more vendors in the region and now across the state. Jepperson says it means they’re canning more product.

“Maybe 3-4 times a month when we first started. We added more tanks and now he’s doing maybe 2-3 brews a week,” Jepperson said.

Each brew kicks out between 9-18,000 cans of beer. But Remedy isn’t the only brewery trying to can more and that’s leading to some issues.

“When we typically order a truck of cans, a semi-truck, it’s about 200,000 cans at a time. It usually takes two months to get your cans. We ordered those in April/May. We just found out last week that all those orders were put on indefinite hold,” Jepperson said.

He hopes to find a different producer and is waiting for more canning facilities to come online across the country.

On the east side of Sioux Falls, Obscure Brewing Company wants to start canning more as well but owner Don Choate is running into the same problem.

“We can’t get cans in our hands to fill them to put to our customers which is frustrating. Not everyone wants to come and buy a keg of beer,” Choate said.

It’s an intense situation given the stakes.

“We feel that canning is going to be vital to the survival of our business,” Choate said.

It’s just another challenge to overcome in 2020.

“I had a 29-page business proposal but not one of those pages was about what we do in case of a pandemic,” Choate said.

“I would say we’re making ends meet. Our projections are way off from the summer. We were hoping for a lot bigger summer. The patio was a lot bigger than what we expected,” Choate said.

Obscure’s patio could see an expansion moving forward but Choate isn’t sure he wants to invest even more into the business until a clear path forward bubbles up.

“I obviously want to grow my business. I want my business to survive. I’m a big advocate for all local businesses. I want people to shop local whenever we can,” Choate said.

He’s extremely grateful for the community’s support during its first year and he hopes it continues into winter when people can’t sit outside and enjoy a local brew. He also thanks his staff for being passionate about keeping the brewery alive.

“All of our tanks are full of beer. We’re not sitting around waiting for things to happen. We are pressing forward with our business as if we’re going to press through this time in our lives,” Choate said.

Both Remedy and Obscure have increased their to-go options at their taprooms.

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