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Despite canceled festivals, local craft breweries make the most of their seasonal beers

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Posted at 11:37 PM, Oct 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-10 00:10:35-04

CLEVELAND — With COVID-19 comes the loss of festivals like Oktoberfest and other seasonal get-togethers. Craft breweries often depend on those events to sell seasonal beer. According to the Ohio Restaurants Association, craft breweries throughout the state are down about 35% in sales.

Sam McNulty, the owner of Marketgarden Brewery, said they’re definitely missing those festivals.

“There’s normally dozens of festivals this time of year, Oktoberfest and beer fests in general, that just aren’t happening,” he said.

But despite the loss of those events, he said their seasonal operation hasn’t really slowed down much.

“We actually brewed more because every year our seasonal beers are getting more and more popular,” he said.

In fact, McNulty said they’re still celebrating the season, with a five-day Pumpkin Beer Fest.

Typically what would be a one day, packed event is now week-long. He said this way they can get the same amount or more people in, but in a safer, more dispersed and spread out way.

Some of the brews that are featured include Franklin Castle Pumpkin Spice Ale and Magis Cider with a pumpkin-spice rim.

McNulty said what they’ve lost in canceled festivals and COVID forced shutdowns, they’ve made up in retail and people buying seasonal beer in stores.

“We’ve won back a lot of the revenue we lost,” he said.

And officials at Great Lakes Brewing Company echoed his sentiment.

“One thing we found during the pandemic is that people like to drink our beer, whether we do it here in the brew pub or at home,” said Allison Pryce, the general manager of Great Lake’s Brew Pub.

She said COVID has been tough on the Brew Pub, but the brewery in general is doing well.

Pryce said they’ve still held Oktoberfest and Christmas in July, but with COVID precautions in place. Those events were reservation only, so that they could maintain a good distance between people and limit capacity.

The brewery’s famous “First Pour Party,” which debuts the brewery’s Christmas Ale, is scheduled for Oct. 22. Just like Oktoberfest and Christmas in July, it is reservation only.

“We’re actually not going to be accepting walk-ins just to try and control the flow,” said Pryce. “This year we are allowing people to sign up for crawlers and growlers so they can take Christmas Ale home and have their own first pour celebration,” she said.