Brew News Spotlight on Backyard Brewery: Blindsided but bouncing back from COVID-19 shutdown

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Backyard Brewery in Manchester survived the last couple of months of being limited to take-out, like many others in the industry have done; by canning more beers. But since the seven-barrel brewpub traditionally only served beers on tap, canning all their beers was a huge change.

Since they’ve been able to reopen, they are still balancing some canning along with their draft supplies, and they’ve deployed technology in some unique ways to keep the restaurant’s interior sanitized and safe.

Backyard Brewery Bouncing back from unexpected shut down. Courtesy Photo

Co-owner Marcus Doucet remembers being blindsided by the closure of dine-in services the day before St. Patrick’s Day, after prepping with special beers and meals to mark the holiday.

“I think the initial shock of it all was extremely difficult,” Doucet said. “We didn’t know we were getting shut down until the same time as the general public.”

But he never slowed down beer production. Instead, he packaged what he had left on draft into crowlers and growlers, and got on the schedule to start canning Backyard’s beers through mobile canning company IronHeart Canning.

“Every beer that we were gonna be making from then on was going to be canned,” Doucet said. “I think the biggest challenge was switching into that mindset.”

He said they knew they could continue to sell beers to go and lightly distribute even during the closures, so they pressed forward with that strategy, canning 30 to 40 barrels of beer every other Friday.

During this time, Doucet said they brewed an experimental New England-style IPA called Pivot (7 percent), so named to recognize how they had pivoted their entire business model.

Luckily, Doucet said their canned beers were selling really well. 

Moving forward, the majority of their beers will be back on the restaurant’s tap lines, but Doucet said they are continuing to can some beers sparingly. 

For instance, they plan on canning a brand new Italian-style pilsner called Peppy Vespa, and their first-ever triple IPA, which is as yet unnamed and likely to be around 9 percent.

Doucet also plans on canning a special release that will come out as part of the brewery’s third anniversary, which is coming up later this month.

Backyard Brewery co-owner Marcus Doucet. Courtesy Photo

At its worst, the shutdown had cut sales down to 20 percent of what they made during this time last year. Now, Backyard is open with about 40 tables outside and another 25 to 30 tables inside, and Doucet said sales are almost back to 100 percent.

“It’s been a hard year, but we’re doing OK now,” he said.

Doucet applied for some payroll aid from the Small Business Administration, which helped keep his eight full-time employees working. They had about 45 employees total before the shutdowns, and Doucet said he’s been able to hire back about 95 percent of his original staff so far.

To keep the interiors clean, the company bought an anti-viral fogger that straps onto a user’s back to spread the sanitizing mist. And they installed a new ultraviolet air filtration system to actively circulate and clean the air of any potential contaminants.

“We’ve looked to technology to definitely help our staff and help ourselves and help our customers be inside while maintaining a safe place to be in,” Doucet said.

Still, he’s noticed there isn’t a lot of interest to eat indoors yet, as most people still feel safest outside. 

Take-out is still higher than normal, and Doucet said they will likely keep a new online order form to streamline that process.

While things are going well now, Doucet worries about a potential second wave of COVID-19 cases and what that could mean for the business.

“Not only for us, but for the whole industry as a whole,” he said.

He hopes everyone does their part to stay safe and prevent the spread of the virus so that doesn’t happen.


Backyard Brewery is located at 1211 South Mammoth Road Manchester, NH. For more info, call 603-623-3545 or go to backyardbrewerynh.com


Got brew news? Ryan Lessard would love to hear from you at ryanlessard@gmail.com