A stainless-steel tanker winds down a gravel road, its 18 wheels coming to rest in front of a bright, red barn. A stubbled Vermonter in coveralls emerges from the structure and fits the rear of the truck with a thick hose. What flows out isn’t fuel or feed, as you might suspect, but thousands of gallons of warm beer. The scene has become something of a morning ritual over the past month at WhistlePig, where the farmhouse distillery is receiving roughly 6,500 gallons of stale suds per day.
In the $29.3 billion craft beer industry, the near-overnight collapse of on-premise consumption has wreaked havoc on the supply chain, equating to hundreds of thousands of kegs log-jammed in distribution warehouses and going stale in brewhouses across the country. It’s the liquid equivalent of the $8.5 billion flower trade: all this beer with nowhere to go, except down the drain.