Two weeks from now, dozens of brewers from across the state would have been in San Antonio, Texas, eagerly waiting to hear whether they had won a trophy at the World Beer Cup.
The prestigious beer competition is just one of a countless number of events canceled amid the coronavirus pandemic. Unlike other gatherings that have been called off, though, organizers have found themselves with a unique challenge: What do you do with a warehouse full of beer entered in a competition?
The answer: make hand sanitizer.
The Brewers Association, a trade group that promotes independent breweries, started emptying thousands of cans and bottles of beer shipped for the World Beer Cup into totes and delivered the first batch of 1,500 gallons to two Denver distilleries this week. Those companies are using the liquid to make hand cleaner that will then be distributed to essential workers.
"I think it's such a great use of the World Beer Cup beer that would have otherwise been dumped or wasted," says Sean Burke, brewer for Von Ebert Glendoveer, whose company entered 10 beers in the competition. "The fact that we as a company are part of getting an estimated 175 gallons of hand sanitizer to first responders make me proud to be a part of such a forward-thinking and fantastic industry."
Most international entries had not yet made their way to North America by the time the World Beer Cup was canceled, but beer from about 2,700 breweries in the U.S. had arrived in Colorado for judging.
The Brewers Association has also found a creative way to carry on with the Craft Brewers Conference by moving the seminars online. From April 13 to May 15, there will be two live classes daily that are free to watch for all.
"There are always some pearls of wisdom to take away from these seminars," Burke says. "I think that GABF and next year's CBC will have a higher air of camaraderie after all of this. It will be interesting to see just how impactful this pandemic will be on our industry and community. Time will tell."