100 DEGREES. That was the average temperature in Nampa, ID last week where our regional production brewery sits about 20 minutes East of the state's capitol, Boise. Vista, CA wasn't a whole lot better. During the same period temperatures rose to near-100, with peak heat reaching 95 degrees outside the brewery and over 100 inside. Though Mother Earth has shown us some mercy in the last couple days, there was a stretch where conditions were absolutely oppressive. A lot of the industrial manufacturing spaces that house breweries (and other businesses) are essentially just big metal boxes, radiating heat down onto to hard-working employees. Like other manufacturing environments, there are a number of pieces of processing equipment that also create their own heat, such as steam generators, pumps, and boiling liquid to name a few. Temperatures can easily spike up to 10 or 20 degrees over ambient temperature if you include the body heat of dozens of workers sweating it out inside, and climate control in a space that large would be impossible if not completely cost-prohibitive; especially since, for safety, it's a requirement to keep points of ingress and egress open to allow for airflow and prevent a confined space environment.
Environmental conditions are just one factor though. On top of that Stage 4 of Idaho's Division of Human Resources issued 'Return to Work Guidance Documents' which requires employees to maintain social distancing while at work, and respirate through a mask; all while they are dredging around in a scorching brewery. Vista has less to worry about in the way of distancing and safety precautions since it has fewer employees on a staggered schedule, but still, it's tough work, and fluctuations in federal, state, and local guidance force changes to demand by format. For example, when restaurants temporarily reopened with distancing guidelines a couple months ago, packaging shifted and was split to favor kegs than in prior months, only to be swiftly reversed after Covid numbers spiked during 4th of July weekend and guidance changed yet again. Here we were with commitments from distributors and tanks full of beer, only to have to pivot once more.
To add insult to injury, production is up in record numbers in the off-premise category (meaning can and bottle sales) since Covid shut down bars and restaurants, which means our guys are working extra hard to keep up with the demand.
As sales shifted from kegs to cans, the more labor-intensive task of packaging took the focus and required loads of manpower and constant maintenance to keep pace with demand.
These changes are part of a systemic ripple effect that apply pressure to every facet of the business. Another example of this would be can supply. No one anticipated packaged product sales to be where they are in response to stay-at-home orders, so many breweries failed to forecast the number of cans we needed to keep up with orders. Granted, it's a good problem to have. Not all breweries have distribution to lean on so please don't mistake a statement of facts with complaining; we are absolutely lucky to be on the receiving end of a historic demand for alcohol, but these challenges exist nonetheless.
For the time being repreve seems like a pipe dream to the employees grinding it out every day. Another heat wave is upon us, demand continues to remain high, and in terms of Covid-19...well the more things change, the more they stay the same. We are so thankful to all of the men and women who show up every day, compromising comfort & safety in the interest of putting in a hard day's work to grow this business.
Next time you have a cold one, savor the flavor.
We're doing this for the love of beer.
Sport one of these sweet M.E. gaiter masks. $2 from every one sold goes to support the San Diego Brewers Guild. Shop here.
Tags: Manufacturing, Brewery Life, Brewing