New local brewery tries fresh approach to keep beer, cash flowing during dine-in ban

Black Laboratory Brewing offers beer to go during COVID-19 pandemic

You can grab a beer to-go during the COVID-19 shutdown
You can grab a beer to-go during the COVID-19 shutdown

SAN ANTONIO – It’s the first weekend that all dine-in restaurants and bars in San Antonio and across Texas will be shut in accordance to the most recent closures issued by Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Governor Greg Abbott.

With no end of the coronavirus pandemic in sight, small business owners say fear for their future.

Located just east of downtown at the corner of Houston and Hackberry Street inside suite 109 is the new local brewery, Black Laboratory Brewing.

The taproom offers five different brews, is stocked with plenty of 32 ounce cans and has ample seating but chairs will remain empty.

“We’ve been working on this for years,” co-owner Tim Castañeda said. “We had our first opening (last) Saturday, (March 14) and everything went great. For all this to happen within the past, basically three or four days, is just kind of rough."

Castañeda and co-ownerJeff Weihd said they’re determined to survive through the COVID-19 temporary shut down with a to-go option for customers.

With limited hours and seeing how things go and how everything’s changing every day, I mean, hopefully we can just sell as many cans as we can today,” Castañeda said.

As of early Saturday morning, the brewers rolled out painters tape for social distancing and to keep the beer and cash flowing.

“We’ll also be having a pick-up table, so we’ll put your beers on the pickup table,” Castañeda said. “When they’re on there, we’ll call your name and you can come pick them up. There will be no interaction (with staff).”

The co-owners designed a new to-go menu that features a blonde and amber ale, an IPA, a coffee stout and their specialty stout names Jeff Jams Vol 1. The 32-ounce cans vary from $10 to $20.

They admit the adjustment has been challenging but are thankful for the business moves they’ve made long before COVID-19 fears came into play.

“One of the first things (we did as a business) was to buy a can seamer,” Castañeda said. “That can seamer is basically a life saver right now.”

The manual machine will help cap-off more than 1,000 cans they ordered days ago.

“On Monday we went ahead and ordered a pallet of cans,” Castañeda said. “At the time it seemed kind of absurd to order a pallet of cans for such a small brewery, but I’m so glad we did.”

They also reached out to another local business for a rush order of labels that, according to Castañeda, national companies were charging hefty fees for.

Creative Mango (was) able to proof it and print out 500 stickers for us in 72 hours,” Castañeda said. “Local businesses helping other local businesses. We’re all in this together.”

Other local breweries, such as Alamo Beer Company, Busted Sandal Brewing Company, Freetail Brewing Co., Roadmap Brewing Co. have also taken a similar approach.

Those working long hours due to COVID-19 such as health care workers, first responders and grocery store employees will receive a discount on any beer purchase.

“You really are the glue that’s holding everyone together," Castañeda said. "You deserve a beer. You’ve earned it.”

Black Laboratory Brewing plans to continue with their to-go option every Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. until the COVID-19 restriction for bars is lifted.