Hungry people are ordering chicken Parmesan and spaghetti and meatballs, helping local restaurant owners whose dining rooms have been closed by COVID-19 precautions.
Pete Bednarek wants orders from thirsty people -- and hopes they include Wolf Hollow amber and Lock 9 porter on their shopping lists.
Bednarek, general manager and co-owner of Wolf Hollow Brewery in West Glenville, began takeout service for beer at his business in mid-March, shortly after restaurants and bars were ordered by the state to shut down operations. Wolf Hollow and other Capital Region breweries are using government-allowed takeout and delivery options to keep some revenue flowing in.
Officials from the Rochester-based New York State Craft Brewers Association say COVID-19 has created a challenging time for the state's craft beer industry, a $5.4 billion industry that provides jobs for 20,000 people across the state.
The New York State Liquor Authority has ruled that state breweries can temporarily sell packaged beer in closed, sealed containers for curbside pickup and home delivery. All home delivery orders must be accompanied by the purchase of a food item.
Paul Leone, executive director of the brewers association, appreciates the permission to do at least some business.
"As a result, breweries can sell beer to-go and offer home delivery," he said in a press release. "There are also a number of options in consideration to allow tax and loan payment deferments, no interest loans and the elimination of late payments on bills to name a few.
"Although this will not fill the financial loss in both jobs and revenue in the short term," Leone added, "it will help breweries survive in these unprecedented times."
Wolf Hollow, located on Amsterdam Road (Route 5), is open Wednesday through Sunday.
"This is a little bit new for us, but it's also a little bit of going back to our roots," Bednarek said. "When our brewery first started six years ago, we were a pick-up only operation. For us to look a little bit on the bright side of things, we're saying, 'We should know how to do this, this is how we started and this is how our most loyal customers who have been with us since the beginning always got their beer.'
"They came and had growlers filled," Bednarek added, mentioning the 32- or 64-ounce, colorfully-named containers that are traditional parts of craft brewing. "We didn't have cans at the time, but we do now. So we've got a number of ways to still provide people with the product."
Bednarek said Wolf Hollow can offer five styles in cans and 16 beers on tap.
"If people have growlers, they can tell us that online," he said. "We will pre-fill new ones and we can just exchange their old Wolf Hollow growlers. If they have their own, we will sanitize them and hand them back to them."
Bednarek said people want to help.
"Our community has really stepped up," Bednarek. "We've had folks who have spread themselves out, they come into the tap room one or two at a time. We've just been so encouraged by people continuing to come out and grab the beer."
Wolf Hollow encourages credit card orders, so people arriving at the brewery just have to pick up and walk out.
"I've been encouraged to see people continue to show up, we'll have a small string of cars outside to pick up beer," Bednarek said.
The pick-up hours have reduced social hours. Bednarek said people can't sit in the tasting room and pass the time over a few pints of beer. While that scenario is preferred, brewers can do more business under the temporary, short-visit arrangement.
Food trucks from local businesses are also on site.
Bednarek said community support has included new customers.
"We've picked up a few new faces along the way," he said, "but by and large, it's been our regulars who have really been keeping us afloat."
"We're already seeing support online, seeing people looking for things they can do to help our business, if they themselves have the means to do so," Bednarek also said. "That has been really encouraging. We've offered to people they can buy gift cards, we're willing to do a purchase over the phone and mail a gift card to someone, if they'd just like to get us the cash and then they'll have something to use after we come out on the other side of this.
Online orders are being accepted at the Wolf Hollow website, wolfhollowbrewing.com/onlineorder. The brewery, which is also delivering, is open for to-go sales Wednesday from 4 until 6 p.m., Thursday and Friday from 4 until 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon until 3 p.m.
The brewers association said breweries are doing everything they can to continue operations and keep their staffs employed, although many have already felt the impact.
"The effects of the pandemic have been immediate and debilitating to our two brewpubs," said Chris Ericson, president of the association and owner of the Lake Placid Pub & Brewery and Big Slide Brewery & Public House (also in Lake Placid).
Ericson said he had to lay off 90 employees earlier this month.
"While to-go beer sales and to-go food sales are available," he said, "the amount of revenue that will generate is token at best."
In Schenectady, people can pick up fluid assets such as Dutchmen lager and Fightin' Irwin IPA -- among with other beers manufactured by the Mad Jack Brewing Co. -- at the Van Dyck Lounge on Union Street.
Co-owner Bill McDonald said people are ordering beer and food to go.
"The response has been really good, as good as it can be for doing takeout," McDonald said.
"Our regulars have been tremendous to us, we have attracted some new people as well, some new faces," he added. "We're doing a $30 takeout special, one of our handmade pizzas, an order of wings, a salad and a growler with some of our Mad Jack beer."
There is some concern customer goodwill could eventually slow down.
"That's what we're wondering," McDonald said. "If everyone is doing delivery and takeout, you can't eat out every night of the week. We do appreciate the loyalty of a lot of our customers, people are talking about it on social media, support the local businesses, which is great and we really do appreciate that."
The Van Dyck is currently open Wednesday through Saturday from 4 until 8 p.m.
Nine Pin Ciderworks in Albany is also open for pick-up, and the company is making deliveries on orders of at least $50.
"The reason we're going this way is because there is really no other way for us to go," said co-owner and cider maker Alejandro del Peral.
State rules will not allow people inside the ciderworks' tasting room on Broadway. No drinking is allowed on the premises. Farmers markets have been cancelled, so that removes another outlet.
"I'm not saying these are unnecessary precautions, we're aware of our role, a societal role to sort of help flatten the curve, as everyone's saying," del Peral said.
Like other managers in the beverage community, del Peral said he has been impressed by community support.
"That's something we never take for granted and we're really so appreciative of everyone who is supporting," he said.
Recent delivery orders included stops in Hoosick Falls, Stephentown, Schenectady, Guilderland and Delmar.
"We want to try to make it as easy for people as possible, and do our part in our societal obligation to limit contact and spread," del Peral said. "People are instructed to stay home and we don't want people to feel like they have to leave their homes to get their cider."
Pick up orders will be available at Nine Pin’s tasting room at 929 Broadway daily from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Pizza and soft pretzels will also be available for order, in addition to cider products.
Other area breweries also offering beer and food to go include:
* Brown's Troy Taproom, 417 River St., Troy, Wednesday-Sunday, noon until 8 p.m.
* SingleCut North and Side Stage Tap Room, 6 Fairchild Square (north side entrance), Clifton Park. Open Monday-Wednesday from 5 until 8 p.m.; Thursday and Friday from 4 until 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m.
Contact staff writer Jeff Wilkin at 518-641-8400 or at [email protected]