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Hit in 2020, San Diego craft beer industry aims to rebound

Posted at 4:04 PM, Dec 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-23 20:31:28-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Hit hard in 2020, San Diego's craft beer industry is looking to rebound in the next 12 months with increased hiring and production.

A new report from the San Diego Brewers Guild and CSU San Marcos says in the height of the pandemic, the industry lost jobs and saw production and overall economic output fall. Craft brewers surveyed, however, expect those numbers to reverse in the coming six to 12 months.

“2020 was a very atypical year for the global economy, and our brewery members along with the craft brewing community at large were able to quickly pivot their production, selling, and distribution tactics and become more resilient,” Paige McWey Acers, Executive Director at the San Diego Brewers Guild, said in a statement. “We’re now starting to see an uptick in sales, events, hiring staff, and more patron visits for local beer manufacturers in San Diego County."

During the pandemic, craft brewers were forced to shut down their tasting rooms and pivot their resources to canning, hitting their bottom line. For instance, at Rouleur Brewing Company, founder Rawley Macias said canning went from 15 percent of their business to virtually all of it. At the time, they had to outsource their canning operation, hitting them even harder.

"A lot of people were resilient and figured it out, there was a lot of help if you knew how to get it," said Macias, who noted grants and PPP loans helped the brewery make it through.

The report says in 2020, craft brewers saw direct employment fall by about 1,100 workers, or 24 percent. Production in the local industry also dropped by 95 thousand beer barrels - or 11 percent.

As a whole, 75 percent of the 31 craft breweries that responded to the survey said they expected their employment and production to grow in the next six to 12 months. Rouleur ended up expanding during the pandemic, opening a new North Park tasting room to go along with its Carlsbad headquarters. Its employment grew from seven workers to 20.

Macias said the one headwind he could see is if case loads spike or a new variant surges, there are not currently government stimulus programs to help businesses make it through.

"The one fear I have now," Macias said, "is there's no sign of help now."