The Craft Beer Community's Evolution Through COVID-19

Before the pandemic, you and your friends would’ve found yourselves at a pub, restaurant, or patio trying new beers - or enjoying old favouites.

The fond memories of drinking beers with friends and family, or driving together to breweries and exploring the craft beer universe seems almost alien.

To put it simply, the craft beer community went through quite the evolution during COVID-19, and yet, we found ways around the obstacles in our path and persevered!

As the world starts to come back to normal, we wanted to look back at what it used to be, how we were challenged during lockdown, and what life is now for the everyday craft beer lover.

The Craft Beer Community Before Lockdown

Before the world we know got torn apart, you may have tried a brand new beer at a pub or restaurant, and at one point may have adventured onto the internet looking for where that brewery was so you could go visit it.

Before you knew it you were Googling the next brewery close by and took yourself on your own self-guided experience - while buying beers along the way.

At a certain point you would’ve realized “You know what, I’ve been to two breweries, I probably can’t go to a third one...but there’s so many more.”

There are 24 breweries within the City of Ottawa, and over 35 when you include the surrounding area, but it is nearly impossible to visit more than 2 or 3 breweries while staying safe at the same time.

That’s where Brew Donkey Tours comes in! At this point in the craft beer experience, one might’ve stumbled upon us and thought “Woah, a safe ride to try new beers, buy new ones and visit breweries around Ottawa!”

Before the pandemic, we helped craft beer loves like yourself get to local breweries on a curated bus trip. These trips were about exploring and learning - and of course with a healthy dose of locally made beverages.

The Uncertainty Beer Lovers Faced During Lockdown

Within a week of lockdown, at least 60 per cent of the breweries in Ottawa had started their plans for home delivery. However, it was almost put on hold due to the fact that no one knew if alcohol was going to be considered an essential service or not.

During this uncertain time, people rushed to LCBOs across the region joining in hour-long lines that had extended down the sidewalks.

When breweries and beverage producers were considered essential, there was a big cheer that spread throughout the brewing community. Local breweries started to put the pieces together for how they were going to continue to get people their beer without having anyone in their store. This resulted in the home delivery movement.

Home Delivery

Towards the end of March, we at Brew Donkey began cataloguing all the breweries that were offering home delivery. The problem these breweries were facing was figuring out proper delivery systems, and ensuring that they had sanitizer ready for when they delivered their beer to eager customers.

At this point, breweries were actively reaching out to us about how we ran our delivery service  - when we had one  - and how we ran our store. We helped about 6 of those local breweries with their Shopify store setup.

By the beginning of April, 90 per cent of the breweries in Ottawa were doing home delivery. They had also begun to do virtual experiences on Instagram's IGTV with us as a way to stay in touch with their customers. Some even began creating their own video series' to entertain their customers in lockdown.

This helped the craft beer community survive for over two months.

The Start of a New Normal: Reopening

On June 8th, it was announced that breweries and restaurants could reopen outdoor seating with only 4 days notice.

Every craft beer lover in the community started to get excited about the idea of visiting their local brewery again, and the breweries started making plans.

About 3-5 breweries opened up that weekend - allowing you to come in for pints on their patios. Many more followed suit in the weeks to come as they figured out the safest way to do so.

In mid-July Ontario moved into Stage 3. Breweries at this time continued to deliver beer - although not as often because the craft beer community was now able to visit local breweries, be in the community that they’ve built, and air high five their favourite server at a local bar.

Our new normal is still that, new. Despite the world slowly coming back to normal, masks and social distancing are now a part of our new everyday routine. The craft beer lover of 2020 still has the amazing opportunity to try new beers, but they must ensure that they and the brewery that are visiting are following the safety protocols required to keep us all safe.

A Reason To Restart Our Tours

A lot of the breweries who used to be extremely busy are now seeing about 10-20 per cent of the tap room guest count they used to.

This is one of the reasons Brew Donkey opened in 2013; to make sure people could visit these breweries that needed the help.

Now that they’ve reopened, we’re incredibly excited to bring craft beer lovers like yourself on an experience of a lifetime! We took a lot of time to ensure that we have the proper safety protocols on board so that we can offer a safe, educational, and fun experience.


Ready to get back out there and try some amazing beer? Check out our list of tours here: