by Kevin M. Smith
In the ongoing series of how Frederick-area brewers have adapted to CoVID-19, and quarantine orders, and even in the shadow of the threat of another quarantine order, Frederick Behind Bars talked to Brent Turner, the owner and brewer at Midnight Run Brewing on Frederick’s YEast Side.
At the beginning of the year as the Pandemic worked its way from West to East, Turner paid close attention to the news, but that didn’t necessarily result in Midnight Run being where he needed it to be when quarantine hit. “It was sort of a gradual thing,” he explained. “We knew Covid was in the states on the West Coast – then it was spreading, then it was local, then the CDC released prevention guidelines which we posted and adhered to, then we stopped using glasses for draft pours, and then we were shut-down. That said, we saw it coming but we weren’t prepared. It was a mad scramble to completely change the way that our brewery did business. As a small brewery that relied heavily on the revenue from draft sales with no packaged distribution, we needed to figure out how we were going to continue to sell beer. One great thing about the business that we’re in: beer helps in situations like a quarantine.”
When the quarantine order dropped, as Turner put it, they were resigned to being shut down and “really hadn’t thought much past that when we realized that we could continue to move our product. The Brewer’s Association of Maryland was great keeping its members informed and up to date on how we could operate. The State and County really loosened up and trusted us to do what we needed to do to stay in business and operate safely.”
Unlike many of Frederick’s other breweries which engaged in at least limited canning, and in some cases, extensive canning – Attaboy, Idiom, Monocacy, Rockwell, Smoketown and others – Midnight Run was almost exclusively tasting room driven, with limited take-out growler sales. Serendipitously, MRB had purchased a crowler machine earlier in the year. “Without that we would have been stuck for sure,” explained Turner regarding their quarantine-inspired shift. “We were able to quickly get our online store up and running and just worked the machine to the maximum. Thankfully, we were able to secure some pallets of cans when there was a very high national demand for them. Most importantly, we have a phenomenal staff that continued to grind with us through all the different and constantly changing operating scenarios.”
As restrictions have loosened on quarantine, many breweries have opened patio space in order to provide limited seating options to customers, Midnight Run faced issues not faced by Attaboy, Rockwell, Idiom, and many others. Those breweries already had outdoor seating approved by the city. Midnight Run, sitting in a shopping strip, didn’t – and there wasn’t any practical way to add it in front. Instead, they added it to the back of the building.
“The patio has been great for us – our patrons love it and it’s something that we’ve wanted to do for a long time now,” said Turner. “Our landlord is awesome, no hang-ups there and the city really moved pretty quickly to process what I imagine was a ton of applications. There has been a common theme in that the authorities having jurisdiction have loosened and relaxed many typical constraints that have helped to expedite processes and keep businesses in business.”
As Turner moves forward into a quarantine/semi-quarantine world, he has been working towards making sure the doors of the brewhouse remain open, even while the potential for the tasting room doors to shut remain high. “Right off the bat we realized that Covid-19 was going to affect our world and our ability to do business as normal for a long time,” he explained. “Early on we invested in a Wild Goose Filling canning line. Due to a huge demand for the machines, we anticipate delivery at the end of August and plan to have all of our beers packaged in the 16-ounce can format starting in the Fall. Until we are inevitably shut-down again, we will continue to produce our big, small-batch brews and safely serve draft beers to anyone that walks in the door.”
Turner has utilized the Pandemic as an opportunity in the brewery. “We have been able to continue to brew and keep our tap list fresh with new beers as well as many of our originals. We have a really strong line-up of IPAs on tap right now as well as some great imperial beers. With the shut-down, we’ve really been able to get more beer into our barrel aging program so our fans can expect many big, barrel-aged brews releasing this Fall and Winter.”