Since its inception in 2000, FINNEGANS’ mission statement has been to raise awareness of and combat food insecurity in communities across the Midwest. The company has truly put their money where their mouth is—donating 100 percent of its profits to charity since 2011 in order to line food shelves with locally grown produce. By September 2020, FINNEGANS is projected to reach a $2 million impact milestone.
Unfortunately, not only has the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on local agriculture and exacerbated the problems that FINNEGANS is working to alleviate, it has also negatively impacted the beer industry.
On June 18, 2020, FINNEGANS sent out a newsletter to their followers stating that the brewery is at a critical point and that it is crucial that sales increase. “Like so many other breweries, our beer sales are down,” says FINNEGANS CEO and founder Jacquie Berglund. “We closed our doors on March 16 and St. Patrick’s Day is normally our biggest day. That was extremely detrimental to the brewery.
“I felt that we needed to remind people that we’re still here. That’s why we sent out that email asking for help. So many of our regulars are corporate folks and many of them aren’t back to work yet,” she continues. “The Elliot Park neighborhood downtown feels so desolate.”
Despite the slowdown in sales, FINNEGANS is still staying true to its charitable mission. Volunteers and FINNEGANS staff recently teamed up to collect over 250 bags of food for Model Cities, supporting residents and businesses in the Frogtown and Rondo neighborhoods in St. Paul—an area that was hit hard during the recent protests. FINNEGANS has also hosted a daily food drive to help local neighborhoods that are struggling due to COVID-19.
“It always feels good to help,” Berglund shares. “But with so many folks in need right now, it feels especially important.”
After sending out the newsletter, FINNEGANS received an outpouring of support, says Berglund. However, she also mentions that there were several factors that had negatively impacted the brewery before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s difficult for breweries that have been around for 20—or more—years to compete with some of the shiny new breweries that are always hitting the scene,” explains Berglund. “Our flagships have definitely taken a bit of a hit in the last several years.”
FINNEGANS beer has been around since 2000. However, they didn’t open a brick and mortar taproom and brewery until 2018. Since the opening, says Berglund, there have been constant road closures and road work near the brewery that has made it difficult for folks to even get to FINNEGANS.
Before the taproom opened, they were involved in an alternating proprietorship with Badger Hill Brewing Company in Shakopee, Minnesota. This partnership allowed both breweries to share each other’s infrastructure and ultimately put FINNEGANS on the path to brewing their own beer. Before their partnership with Badger Hill, Summit Brewing Company in St. Paul brewed FINNEGANS beer under contract.
Even though FINNEGANS discovered new hurdles with the opening of their taproom, the space has also allowed the brewery to make strides in a positive direction. As of December 2019, FINNEGANS has brewed 100 percent of its beer in-house.
“Opening our taproom felt incredible. It’s a surreal feeling,” says Berglund. “I didn’t realize what we were missing until we got it. I love being able to meet the folks who love and enjoy our beer. Plus, we have a very engaged and joyful staff!”
The taproom wasn’t the only recent addition to the FINNEGANS franchise. In May 2018, they launched the FINNOVATION Lab. The lab was created to empower and support professionals and entrepreneurs who use business to address environmental, economic, and social issues.
Recent projects that have been created by fellows of the program include The Price Dynamic, a family coaching firm that supports African American single and co-parenting families bridge their communication gaps; Epimonia, a fashion apparel and accessories brand that creates products out of recycled refugee life jackets; and RED Market, an online marketplace connecting sustainable farmers with wholesalers. To further the collaboration, the brewery is in the process of becoming a pick-up site for online pre-orders from Frank & Ernest Market and RED Market.
However, for FINNEGANS to continue business after the pandemic and keep projects like the FINNOVATION Lab afloat, it is imperative that sales increase. According to the newsletter sent on June 18, they aren’t asking for monetary donations; they are asking beer drinkers to buy more FINNEGANS beer.
“The sun is starting to shine, but to be around for the bright future, we need you, our long time supporters, to choose FINNEGANS first over the next few months,” the company’s newsletter states.
“Back in the early 2000s, I told my team that if we ever hit $1 million in donations, I’d be over the moon,” Berglund says. “Where we’re at now is beyond my wildest dreams. Our journey to $2 million has been steady growth—we’ve just been plugging away at it for 20 years!”
Twenty years and almost $2 million in donations later, FINNEGANS is asking for help from their community. FINNEGANS isn’t alone. The entire craft beer industry has taken a hit because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now is the time for the craft beer community to do what they do best: drink craft beer.