The pandemic and the shutting down of taprooms, bars, and restaurants pushed a lot of breweries to a place they’d never been before. Namely, a quick and abrupt entry into the world of packaged beer. Many of our most-loved, local, draft-only breweries pivoted and quickly found a way to package their beer in bottles and cans. Other breweries increased the amount of beer they packaged for grocery stores, bottleshops, and other retailers.
If you’ve been paying attention, this isn’t news. Step one: package your beer. Step two: find a place to sell it.
In response to the topsyturvy beer world, PCC Community Markets introduced a program that focuses on providing a dedicated outlet for new-to-the-shelf breweries and beers. The company’s Tavern To Go program showcases beers from local breweries that were previously not available in bottles and cans. Also, it features beers that are seasonal or one-off releases. You know, the kind of stuff you typically can only get at a brewery’s taproom or a beer-focused bar. PCC plans to run the program through the end of May and will evaluate things thereafter.
“Hello, my name is PCC’s top-selling beer this week.”
So how is it working out?
Earlier this month PCC Community Markets experienced its biggest selling week for beer and wine. Ever! The company saw an astounding increase in beer sales year-over-year. Basically, a massive increase over the same time period last year.
Was this new Tavern To Go program a factor in that increase?
The number one selling beer at PCC that week was Stoup Brewing Company’s Citra IPA, a beer that was just introduced in cans for the first time ever. So, yeah, the Tavern To Go thing seems to be working. For the store and for the brewery.
Jeff Cox, the Wine, Beer and Spirits Guy for PCC Community Markets, explains: “This was one of those ideas that began with a single opportunity, gained energy from subsequent opportunities, morphed into a solid “what if?”, from there it rolled right on into V lift off as the dominos of serendipity continued to fall. Or something like that.”
It started with Chuckanut Brewery’s Pilsner back during the first couple weeks of the shutdowns. PCC Markets was offered the chance to put dibs on some cases of Chuckanut Pilsner. “Holy smoke… Well, duh,” says Cox. “Days later, Jason Bass of Stoup Brewing emailed to inform me that due to the plague, they had advanced their plans to can Stoup beers. Another no-brainer.”
From there the idea began to hatch: focus on beers not already in the PCC beer program and, quite frankly, new to the retail marketplace. They began to recognize other opportunities with breweries like Future Primitive, Tin Dog Brewing, Garden Path, and others.
“The only issue with such an embarrassment of riches was where to carve out cold box space on short notice,” explains Cox, noting that shelf space at PCC’s 13 locations is limited, after all. “Fortunately, as a result of last winter’s threats of new wine tariffs, we were facing delayed arrivals of some wine shipments, which meant we had some floor space available. From there, the idea to take a half dozen breweries, offer a beer or two from each, rotating items depending on availability… A “tavern” of über fresh packaged beers.”
As the floor space is taken over by the arrival of the delayed shipments, PCC is revamping its cold cases, and including one or two selections from this promotion in its regular offering.
“It’s pretty danged gratifying not only to be able to offer our customers some incredible local beers, but to help a few breweries make ends meet,” says Cox, adding that it is inevitable that local beer lovers miss the tavern experience.
“Taverns and taprooms may be shuttered, but the thirst for fresh, great, honest beer remains—along with the need for a friendly place to drink it with your favorite peeps. Those thirsts are part of who we are here. Your local tavern is part of the fabric of your neighborhood.”