While the owners of To Share Brewing Company in Manchester are getting by with only 40 percent of their usual taproom-reliant revenue, they are getting ready to start expanding their repertoire with a new line of hard ciders.
Beer sales at To Share were strong in the first few weeks of the restaurant shutdowns in March, according to owners Aaron and Jenni Share. Customers turned out to show their support and buy canned beer or crowlers to go.
But by the time April rolled around, sales dropped off by 60 percent.
“April was pretty tough for us,” Jenni Share said.
Early on, Aaron said they weren’t sure if their business would be considered essential or not. So they started to slow down their beer production. But after they realized they could continue producing and selling, they ramped up production again and altered their business model to can more beer and focus on take-out, curb-side and delivery.
They usually contract State 64 for mobile canning, but at the start of the pandemic, they didn’t have anything in cans.
Jenni said she reached out to the company early to get on their calendar to can To Share beer every two to three weeks, canning two to three products at a time.
“Which is significantly more than what we had been doing before the pandemic,” Jenni said.
Before, they were canning beers about once a month, usually one type of beer at a time. They were able to sell 32-ounce crowlers out of the taproom too, but soon found that the larger can size was becoming difficult to find.
While revenues dropped to 40 percent, the Shares said they have been running a lean operation. So far, they’ve been able to cover fixed expenses, they have some good savings and Jenni and Aaron aren’t taking a salary.
“Our goal right now is not necessarily to make money but to not lose money,” Aaron said.
They haven’t had to defer rents or suspend business loan payments so far, but they have those options if they need it.
“Right now we’re holding steady,” Aaron said.
They didn’t apply fo the Small Business Administration’s Payroll Protection Program, but they did apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan just for a $6,000 grant.
They had to suspend shifts for their six to eight part-time workers, who each have full-time jobs elsewhere, and the Shares are working the taproom hours themselves.
Traditionally, about 90 percent of their sales are directly from their taproom. While they have some restaurant accounts for keg sales, the Shares haven’t pushed that revenue stream much, they said.
So while May has bounced back somewhat from April, they are still not making as much as they used to.
And without enough room to make outdoor seating worthwhile, the Shares are continuing their focus on to-go purchases and deliveries, at least until the state starts to allow dine-in services again.
Still, Jenni said there has been a strong base of regular customers supporting them throughout the crisis, and they’re optimistic about the future.
“We have no doubt that we will come out of this on the other side,” she said.
One of the things they hope will help them is a plan to diversity their beverage offerings with hard cider, something they’re able to do now that they’ve recently upgraded their liquor license.
“I’d like to start on it in the next two to three weeks, doing some pilot batches,” Aaron said.
Aaron said they’re likely going to focus on dryer ciders rather than super sweet beverages, the ciders will be carbonated, and they’ll be looking to incorporate some unique ingredients, such as different herbs, spices and hobs.
Meanwhile, beer production is continuing apace.
This week, they released a new double dry-hopped DIPA called Swoctopus (8 percent), which is hopped with Citra and Idaho 7.
They’ll also be re-releasing Intro Cream Ale (5.8 percent) in cans.
By July 4 weekend, they’ll have a newly canned inventory of Gold Civic (6.7 percent), Sea Sun Saison (7.5 percent) and Cinco de Gose (3.5 percent).
Aaron said they first released the gose at the end of April and it sold out in about a week, making it their fastest-selling beer. It’s made with crushed coriander seed, lime juice, lime zest and pink Himalayan salt.
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