The Homebrew Milkman: COVID-19 brewing reflections

the homebrew milkman on making deliveries
The author out on his “milk” route, making deliveries to neighbors with his latest batch of homebrewed beer. Photo courtesy of Norm Ryder

It all started with a group of local guys that met in a neighborhood brewpub on Saturday afternoons for a pint or two and shared appetizers. These meetings took place prior to March 2020 and the ensuing COVID-19 restrictions. I had just met the group and had attended a handful of gatherings, so was just getting familiar with the names and faces. But that all ceased once lockdowns went into effect.

In a weak moment, I suggested that I could brew the beer and we could meet in our garages (or via Zoom) each Saturday. Little did I know this would continue for such a long period of time! A total of nine were in the beer group. I paid for all the brewing supplies and the rest of the group was expected to donate $5 each week to the local food bank and to the women’s emergency center. It was easy to start this offering as I had several kegs in the fruit cellar. Coming up with fast turn-around new recipes each week was the next challenge.

On Saturdays, depending on the latest social gathering guidelines, we would either meet on Zoom or in a garage. I would describe the beer, either verbally or with a handout, regarding the process and the history of the style. Each label stated the ABV, IBUs, and SRM as well as a short description of the named beer. Masks were worn until everyone sat down and was spaced six feet (1.8 m) apart. After 22 weeks we had raised $1,350 for the designated organizations.

On weeks when my beer was not conditioned enough, the group received complimentary beer from the old brewpub after the owners heard about the financial donations our group had provided. Other craft breweries also assisted to fill in for other weeks.

This system continued until session 38; by that time I had brewed a total of 51 kegs of beer and the group had tasted over 50 different beers. In my home province of Ontario, Canada you can produce as much as you want but cannot sell it. After that session the COVID-19 protocols allowed the group to meet back on brewery patios and my services were no longer required. Since I had a lot of beer in inventory conditioning in kegs, with no demand, it allowed me to start the “milk” route. You know the old story of when one door closes another one opens!

Since I had a lot of beer in inventory conditioning in kegs, with no demand, it allowed me to start the “milk” route.

The “milk” route started out with me delivering my homebrew to neighbors who I knew liked beer. I left the required number of beers on each neighbor’s doorstep and rang the doorbell to let them know they had a new surprise awaiting them. If they did not come to the door I messaged them so the beer would not freeze (as it was winter at the time). I did this each time I brewed a new batch and they in turn were most gracious realizing that beer costs money to make. We started to receive interesting gifts in return, sort of a quid pro quo. It came in the form of bottles of wine, fresh perch and pickerel, bottles of scotch, cookies, desserts, chocolates, and so on.

When the weather improved, we started having social hours in our driveway with everyone bringing their own chairs. Usually the group size was restricted based on government guidelines, so say two couples might gather at one time. When things opened up more we had two COVID-19 parties and I supplied two kegs using my custom stainless steel beer dispenser. I also supplied the glasses and guests were told to sanitize their hands with supplied sanitizer before they poured beer each time.
Think outside of the box and share your bounty with others. You may be surprised as to the responses!

Issue: October 2022