The idea to open a high-quality artisanal brewery in Monaco came to Natasha Frost-Savio and her husband Roberto Savio during a trip to the U.S. a few years back. The couple discovered the American craft beer market, which according to the Brewers Association, accounts for more than 25% of the country’s $116 billion beer market.
With founding partners, including Shane Heminway and Harvey Jackson, Blue Coast Brewing Company was launched in January 2017 becoming the largest independently owned craft brewery in the region. Other high profile names involved in the project are 2018 Monaco Grand Prix champ Daniel Ricciardo, 2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button and sports presenter for TF1 Karen Minier-Coulthard (wife of David) to name a few.
The company set an Ale and IPA production target of 50,000 liters in 2018 and as sales quadrupled in 2019 with Blue Coast Brewing expanding to 350 retail points, the company was set to brew nearly 600,000 liters this year. But that was pre-Covid.
“The unprecedented coronavirus pandemic hit us all in a drastic way,” Celina Eude, CEO of Blue Coast Brewing, tells Forbes Monaco. “We had to react quickly to protect our staff. We closed our brewery and put the employees on temporary furlough to best manage our cash flow and adapt our business model in this context.”
They stepped up the launch of their online sales platform, which now delivers beer—their IPA, lager, blond and seasonal ale—and merchandise to over 25 markets across Europe. Closer to home, they initiated “Blue Coast Drive,” allowing people to pick-up beer directly from the brewery once a week and “Blue Coast Deliveries” to deliver directly to local customers.
“The sudden shutdown of bars, restaurants and hotels in the region had a huge impact on local breweries with 50% to 100% of customers forced on a hiatus. They represent 80% of our sales so needless to say the situation was critical,” explains Eude, who grew up in Monaco before moving abroad to work for international business and marketing companies.
To help boost sales, BIAM—the regional independent craft brewers’ associations, of which Blue Coast is one of the founding members—came up with the “B-Box,” bringing together 12 local craft breweries in one case of 24 for home delivery or pick-up at the breweries.
It was a hit, selling over 1,000 units in a month, and the substantial turnover gave breweries the opportunity to continue brewing and selling throughout confinement.
“This endeavor enabled several small and family run businesses to keep afloat and demonstrated the strength and importance of local community initiatives,” Eude says. “It proved to be a defining moment for BIAM and demonstrated solidarity among established craft beer partners in the South of France.”
Eude says the Covid crisis has forced Blue Coast Brewing to review the way it operates. “Our priority is now to re-engage with the local businesses and see how we can grow while giving greater focus to e-commerce.”
As Monaco reopened bars and restaurants on June 2, Blue Coast can again be ordered at 45 different locations across the Principality, including Bars du Casino, the Yacht Club, Tip Top and Stars’n’Bars.
As for the brewery on chemin de Saquier in Nice’s Eco Valley, it unclear as to when the taproom will reopen or whether their family-friendly musical afternoons and food truck services will return.
“For the moment, it is hard to imagine people under the same roof sharing a beer. We are looking at ways to bring the community together at our brewery taproom although it will have to be in smaller groups to respect social distancing.”
Beyond the taproom, the brewery hopes to resume pop-up events and host beach cleanups in the fall, partnering with the Monaco-based non-profit The Animal Fund.
“Digital technology and experiences have brought people together during the lockdown,” Eude reflects. “We can learn a lot from that and we are already working on new initiatives and products to brighten-up our summer ahead.”