Beer

A Generation of Pandemic-Inspired Beer Labels

How breweries are highlighting social distancing and stay-at-home orders with creative packaging

Back in mid-March, Ale Asylum cofounder Otto Dilba began cursing the pandemic. “I was walking around with the staff joking that we should make a beer called Fuck COVID,” says Dilba, whose brewery taproom in Madison, Wisconsin, was closed to help slow the novel coronavirus’s spread.

The joke became a call to action. On April 13, the brewery started statewide distribution of a light-drinking pilsner labeled FVCK COVID. Profits from beer sales will be donated to charity. Shortly after release, the brewery received unprecedented demand for its beer, including requests to ship cans countrywide. “Very, very rarely in life do you get 100 percent of the population behind something,” Dilba says.

Over the past few months, breweries have been using beer can labels to highlight our ongoing epidemiological uncertainty, stay-at-home orders, and social distancing.

Bridge and Tunnel, in Ridgewood, Queens, released a witbier called No Mask? Fugetaboutit, while San Antonio’s Weathered Souls made a hazy IPA called 6 Feet of Separation

Proclamation Ale Company, in Warwick, Rhode Island, has released five beers in its so-called Essential series of IPAs, finding fast demand. In mid-April, the brewery released the Knock It Off double IPA, a nod to Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo telling her constituents to take the pandemic seriously. The brewery sold more than 200 cases in basically a day. Due to concerns over crowds and social distancing, “we had to shut it off at 500 orders,” says founder and president Dave Witham. “We didn’t want to be hypocrites.”

As for Ale Asylum, the brewery now offers a second FVCK COVID beer, a hazy pale ale. It’s also partnering with Brew Pipeline to roll out national distribution this month. (The Restaurant Employee Relief Fund will receive $2 from every case sold.) Holding a can might not be a cure, but “it can put a brief smile on your face,” Dilba says. “We’re happy to be part of that.”

Contributing editor Joshua M. Bernstein is a beer, spirits, food, and travel journalist, as well as an occasional tour guide, event producer, and industry consultant. He writes for the New York Times, Men’s Journal, New York magazine, Wine Enthusiast, and Imbibe, where he’s a contributing editor in charge of beer coverage. Bernstein is also the author of five books: Brewed Awakening, The Complete Beer Course, Complete IPA, Homebrew World, and Drink Better Beer.

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