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Coronavirus In Minnesota: Craft Brewers Say They're Forced To Dump Beer Due To State Taproom Laws

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- COVID-19 has many Minnesota craft breweries worried about the future. Breweries across the state have been furloughing employees and dumping beer down the drain.

They are hoping a change in state law could give them a fighting chance, looking for help from the state before they have to shut down.

Since March 17, Bauhaus Brew Lab in Northeast Minneapolis has been closed to customers. Thankfully, its drive up business has helped get product out the door. But you can't make up revenue when you've been closed for a month.

"We had to dump a 30-barrel batch of beer down the drain, and we expect to have to dump more coming up," Bauhaus director of operations Drew Hurst said.

Without off-sale options, Hurst said his business will continue to see money go down the drain.

"We can't sell the amount of beer we normally sell in our taproom. We can't distribute kegs to bars and restaurants because they are closed, just like we are," he said.

Craft breweries would like the option to sell 12- and 16-ounce cans in 4 or 6 packs, right from their taprooms. Lauren Bennett McGinty, executive director of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, says laws must be changed in other to keep these breweries open.

"If breweries could sell these products from their taprooms to the customers, it would actually help ease a lot of their burdens," she said. "We did advocate for restaurants and bars to be able to sell beer to go, in addition to breweries to be able to sell beer to go, and restaurants were the ones who won out."

Taprooms were removed from the bill, and for now what they have is not enough to survive.

"Right now we're limited to growlers and crowlers, which is great. We are grateful ... it's just not its not enough. Right now, we've got so much canned product that is going to end up going down the drain if we cant move it," Hurst said. "The amounts of labor and logistics that go into filling growlers and crowlers manually ... is not an easy process and is not something that has a very high return on it versus being able to use our canning line that is already up and running."

Craft brewers hope state lawmakers make changes so they can use what works for them to keep jobs and their businesses going.

Minnesota is the only state in the country allowing to-go beer sales from taprooms, but not 12 and 16 ounce cans. Craft brewers are asking beer drinkers to call their legislators.

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