Brew News Spotlight on Daydreaming Brewing Co.: Grand opening amid COVID-19 a bit of a nightmare

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While many craft brewers are struggling now with diminished sales, as COVID-19 shutdowns have cut off their main sources of revenue, the owners of Daydreaming Brewing Company in Derry followed through on their plan to open the business in early April, though a handful of grand opening events had to be canceled. 

To make matters worse, owners Andy Day and Alana Wentworth had not planned on doing any beer packaging for retail. The whole concept of the business was to find a unique niche with low-alcohol, low-price British-style pub ales that would be served in the taproom and adjacent restaurant (Day and Wentworth also own Cask & Vine restaurant and Doire Distilling).

The idea from the very beginning was to have people gather there to drink tall 20-oz. beers like Galliens Golden Ale (4.2 percent), Broadway Bitter (4.9 percent) and Island Pond Porter (4.6 percent). 

They also brewed up some higher-ABV varieties like Jay NEIPA (6.1 percent) and VieRIS (10.5 percent), which will be packaged and released sometime in summer.

VieRIS (pronounced like “virus”) was so named because Day said he was “vying for the attention of beer drinkers,” it is a Russian Imperial Stout (RIS) and they made it during the virus.

“It just stuck,” Day said.

Despite not having events to mark the opening of the brewery, Day said they opened strong with about $2,300 in beer sales to date. While the popularity of the beer is encouraging, Day said he would have made twice as much if they were able to pour pints. 

They ran out of two of the four initial beer styles after only about a week. He since has made a second batch of Jay, and that’s the only beer left on tap. 

“People really enjoy the beers and crush through them,” Day said. “We’re so tiny and people have been super supportive. We just blew through everything we have.”

Day said he brewed new batches of Broadway and Island Pond which he will be releasing over the course of the next two weeks, but after that, he will be out of draft beer.

The dearth in beer has been due to Day’s decision to help put his distillery to work supplying local businesses with sanitizer.

“I haven’t been able to make anything else because we’ve been so inundated with orders for sanitizer on the distilling side,” Day said. 

Day said he has been filling orders for a vendor that supplies 70 different assisted living facilities, which demands 140 gallons of sanitizer a week.

Alan Wentworth and Andy Day of Daydream Brewing in Derry. Courtesy Photo

He said he’s been using corn sugar to ferment, and over-pitching the yeast to speed up the process, cutting the fermentation process down from 10 days to 2 days. But the process is still very labor-intensive.

“I’ll be here five out of seven days 24 hours a day running the still,” Day said.

He sells the sanitizer for $50 a gallon, but he said a consumable liquor with a similar alcohol-by-volume would be typically sold for $178 per gallon. So, while he is making some profit, it’s not as much as he likely would doing his regular business.

Day said he also started taking stale beer from breweries and distributors two weeks ago that would otherwise be dumped down the drain to turn it into sanitizer. But the process is less efficient unless it’s a high-ABV beer around 10 percent, he said.

Cask & Vine’s business has shrunk to about 8 to 10 percent of what it usually brings in, Day said. 

“That’s been fairly devastating,” he said.

Still, it’s encouraging that some of his regular customers are buying take-out and leaving large tips around $50 to $100 per order.

The liquor sales are up by 10 percent, taking in about $500 to $600 a week, he said, though he’s starting to run out of his gin and sugarshine. 

Opening the new brewery represented an investment of about $25,000.

Day applied for and received just under $30,000 from the Small Business Administration’s Payroll Protection Program, which he plans to use to hire back his chef and six other employees. 

He also applied for the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) but has so far only received a $6,000 advance grant for that.

In the meantime, Day said lenders at the Regional Economic Development Center and Enterprise Bank have been very supportive and flexible and pushed out his payments to July.

But the summer is when things usually slow down for Day’s businesses he said, as people usually leave Derry and neighboring communities to travel. So, he’s waiting to see what will happen this year.

“I think the summer is going to be a struggle,” Day said.

The nightmare scenario, Day said, is if the federal aid dries up at the same time the bills start calling, and he doesn’t have the usual savings he plans for to coast through a slow summer.

For now, he’s making more beer to celebrate the return of outdoor seating May 18. There are still some open seats available at Cask & Vine for May 27-30. You can make an online reservation here.

Daydream Brewing Company

1½ East Broadway

Derry, NH

(603) 965-3454

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