The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted a longtime Chippewa Valley brewing company.
The Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company is now ramping up production of some of its most popular beers, but not for the reason you might think.
For the last month, Leinenkugel’s has been playing catch-up, according to President and Chief Beer Merchant Dick Leinenkugel.
“Prior to the pandemic hitting, we had planned to put in all new packaging equipment here in Chippewa Falls,” Leinenkugel said. “That included a bottle and can depalletizer, new bottle rinser and then the ability to create our own boxes.”
Installing that new equipment shut the brewery down for about two months, which Leinenkugel says would not usually be an issue. However, when the Coronavirus pandemic reached western Wisconsin, the demand for Leinie’s emptied out their distributor’s warehouses.
“Leinenkugel’s is up about 4% this year verses the prior year in the off-premise trade,” said Leinenkugel. “We dialed up our production since we got the new packaging equipment, so we needed to play a little bit of catch-up in terms of meeting the market demand.”
The equipment allows Leinie’s to have a greater range of packaging they can produce in Chippewa Falls.
“We will now have the capability, if we decided to do that, to do 15, 18 or even 30 pack cans,” Leinenkugel said. “When we do the glass, we now have total control of the glass. It is coming in in bulk, we are creating the boxes in the 6-packs or 12-packs and we are now controlling all that production here.”
While their off-site sales are up, Leinenkugel says the pandemic did take a toll on their keg sales, which, according to Leinenkugel, make up about 25% of their total sales. Along with new equipment, the brewery is also running 24 hours a day with employees working 12 hour shifts.
“We’re catching up with that right now and i think, at least for the foreseeable future, we will be running longer days,” Leinenkugel said.
While the brewery has not had to shut-down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Leinie Lodge has. However, Leinenkugel says they are planning on reopening on June 25, with social distancing guidelines in place.