The Arizona Craft Brewers Guild, an advocacy group that aims to promote and protect the craft beer industry in the Grand Canyon State, is struggling to survive amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The guild had to cancel the majority of its signature craft beer events such as Arizona Strong Beer Festival and Arizona Beer Week, which account for nearly 85 percent of its annual revenue. In an effort to continue operating, the guild came up with a creative way to support both itself and local brewers as well as allow beer aficionados across the state to enjoy the local brew they love.
The organization recently launched the Recoupon AZ Beers booklet, a coupon book featuring $750 worth of savings at 57 craft breweries throughout Arizona. The book costs $35 and can be purchased at participating breweries as well as the guild’s website. With 135 different coupons that vary from Walter Station in Phoenix to Wanderlust Brewing Company in Flagstaff, the booklet ensures the continuation of Arizona’s craft beer culture.
The guild hosted virtual beer fests and merchandise sales throughout the pandemic to stay afloat, but executive director Rob Fullmer says they needed to come up with an innovative way to bring awareness to the craft beer scene while in-person events were suspended. The book is the brainchild of the guild’s business development manager Kristan Drewes, who leveraged her relationships with allied partners and local breweries to put the project together. The guild also got great support from Printing Solutions in Tempe, which donated its time and supplies.
Ryan Whitten, head brewer at 8-Bit Aleworks in Avondale, has been involved with the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild since before he opened the brewery in 2015. He says it was instrumental in helping promote 8-Bit when it first started up and pushing for its preservation when the pandemic hit.
“If I hadn’t been part of the guild, I would’ve been missing a lot of information because they would say one thing on TV and we would have to wait for the liquor board to clarify, so the guild has been really important in that,” Whitten says. “The guild can’t do beer festivals, so this is our only chance probably for the next year to support the guild and make sure that it doesn’t go away. If we do have something like this happen again, we need the guild in our corner to help us all through it so that we don’t all flounder and die.”
The brewery secured a professional canning line last year, which Whitten says has helped them through the financial hardships of COVID-19. He’s seen a drastic decrease in traffic coming through the tasting room, but he says the most difficult obstacle was not hosting events like beer and donut pairings.
“In addition to losing the revenue stream, we’ve lost some of those really fun events that keep us connected with our guests and our regulars and have everybody come out and have fun and unplug from reality for a bit,” he says.
The Recoupon AZ Beers booklet will be available through the end of January, making it a great gift for the holidays, Fullmer says. Other off-the-wall fundraising ideas, like a series of benefit beers, are also in the works.
“Keep fighting for us and we’ll keep fighting for these breweries,” Fullmer says.