Tuesday, June 2, 2020
June 2, 2020

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Craft beer enthusiasts connect as Clark County businesses pivot to carryout

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Kegs and casks are stored at Trap Door Brewing.
Kegs and casks are stored at Trap Door Brewing. (Columbian files) Photo Gallery

Clark County craft brewers are weathering the COVID-19 crisis by doing what they do best — brewing beer and selling it, just not to people drinking on-site. Brewers are banding together, getting creative, and, as they say at Fortside Brewing Company, staying “beer strong.”

After all the bars and restaurants in Washington were shut down earlier this month, beer enthusiast and marketer Michael Perozzo came up with the idea of connecting beer drinkers with breweries virtually.

Perozzo, founder of ZZeppelin Media, assists craft brewers with marketing in his professional capacity. This isn’t just a job; Perozzo loves locally made craft beer. He’s easily spotted at any brew launches or collaboration celebration by his thick, dark beard, black framed glasses and a baseball hat. He’s the guy who knows everyone in the room — the unofficial mayor of Vancouver craft beer.

He wondered how he could re-create the pub experience in this new era of social distancing. Beer Nerds, a private Facebook group with 3,500 members from all over the place, seemed like a good vehicle for launching this virtual pub.

From March 17 through March 23, when Gov. Jay Inslee issued a stay-at-home-order, Perozzo went to different breweries to talk about beer and sip a pint with the brewers while viewers cracked open a cold one and poured their own pint at home.

The first virtual pub was on March 17 at Fortside Brewing where brewers were canning a new Pilsner. Paul Thurston, Fortside’s head brewer, updated viewers on new brews. They included a collaboration with Logsdon Farmhouse Ales, an India Pale Ale, and a collaboration with Dwinell Country Ales called Honeylicious, a barrel-fermented wild ale fermented on Honeylicious nectarines and conditioned with honey from Gunkel Orchards in Maryhill. Fortside owners Mike DiFabio and Mark Doleski shared a bottle of Dwinell’s High Spirits with Thurston and Perozzo.

Later that day, Perozzo visited Trap Door Brewing. Anyone can join the virtual gatherings. Just go to Facebook, search for Beer Nerds, and request to join. Perozzo plans to continue the virtual tastings, but from home.

“Beer Nerds is private,” Perozzo explained, “so people can talk about beer and their employer or Aunt Myrtle won’t think they’re an alcoholic.”

Another group, Couve Brew Bevy, is also meeting virtually. The Facebook group of 250 brew-loving ladies normally has a monthly meeting with 25 to 40 women. This monthly meeting normally features a short educational component about beer and some serious beer drinking. They attempted their first virtual get together via Zoom on March 18.

“The idea is for ladies to grab a beer, hang out, and talk beer,” Kimberly Johnson said. Any woman beer lover can join the group by making a request via Facebook.

On the web

For a complete list of local craft breweries go to the North Bank Brewers Alliance Members List at https://www.northbankbrewers.com/brewery-members. With the ever-changing nature of the COVID-19 crisis, it’s a good idea to check online or call before visiting a brewery.

Johnson hosts the Couve Brew Bevy Facebook page and co-owns Final Draft Taphouse with her husband Mike Bolt. Final Draft, like many local beer spots, is open for carryout business. They have a long list of local brews on tap and in their one door fridge. Last week, the more survivalist-minded were stocking up on cases, but many others were just coming in to get their regular weekly allotment of beer. The tap list is filled with local craft beer from Heathen, Fortside, Barlows, and Brothers Cascadia.

“We want to always support local craft beer,” Johnson said. “Vancouver first, then Washington, then Oregon.”

“It’s a tough time,” Perozzo said. “There haven’t been clear announcements on relief or economic stimulus for food and beer.”

The best way to support local breweries is to buy directly from them.

Trap Door Brewing has a delivery license from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board. Breweries can deliver beer directly to customers using their own employees if they comply with certain requirements under state law. Beer can be sold curbside. The state liquor board is also working with local authorities to waive or accelerate the 20-day local review requirements for to-go privileges and delivery privileges for businesses that sell liquor.

Brothers Cascadia Brewing in Hazel Dell is currently delivering beer. Bryan Shull, owner of Trap Door Brewing, said he hasn’t begun delivery services because their beer to-go at the brewery is working well at this time. Many grocery stores carry local beer. Beer from small craft brewers is more expensive at these places than beer from larger breweries.

“Now is the time to make the $3 or $4 decision to get fresh local beer,” Perozzo said.

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