“It should be around 50 degrees,” Butcher said Monday morning after a long weekend without power in the midst of a relentless heat wave.
“It’s around 62 right now,” Reeves said.
The two men were racing against the thermometer to preserve the contents of the 1,860-gallon stainless steel tank, which (they hope) will be bottled as Downright Pilsner.
“If we have to drop the tank, it’s about $20,000,” Butcher said. “As a start-up business, every dollar in sales is critical. We don’t have any margin for error. This is a crisis situation.”
So, Reeves said, “we’re getting a generator to save the beer.”
As Washington struggled to power up in the wake of Friday night’s freak storm, some area businesses scrambled to protect their perishables and other heat-sensitive products.
A Northern Virginia pediatrics practice moved hundreds of vials of vaccines — worth more than $100,000 — to a pharmacy refrigerator at Inova Alexandria Hospital.
Dry ice and generators were in short supply.
Largess was not: Wagshal’s, the high-end grocery in Washington’s tony Spring Valley neighborhood, grilled prime cuts of meat before they could spoil and gave them away at a neighborhood cookout.
“I felt good about it rather than throwing it away,” said owner Bill Fuchs, who estimated his losses in the tens of thousands of dollars — a “pretty devastating” toll.
But insurance should cover the majority of the losses, he said — and other businesses lost just as much, if not more.
“The guy who slaughters my beef up in Baltimore had to throw away 80 cattle,” Fuchs said. “So all the way up and down the food chain, you have people with some real devastating issues going on.”
Since Friday’s mass outages, neighbors with power have helped those without save milk, ice cream and frozen meat. Elliott Staren, owner of Wide World of Wines, helped in a completely different way: A customer who’d lost power wanted to know whether he could bring in 30 bottles of wine before they were ruined by heat.
“Another guy called and said he had six cases,” Staren said. “It’s just like how they tell you to look out for your neighbors, we’ll look out for your bottles.”
Other tales from a newly unrefrigerated world weren’t reaching the Port City Brewing Co.
Butcher, the year-and-a-half-old brewery’s owner, was too busy worrying about 13,000 gallons of imperiled beer.
Already, he said, Port City had lost an estimated $15,000 in tasting-room business during the weekend.
The company was falling behind on bottling, too: 576 cases of Belgian-style ale were to have been bottled Monday morning, and more than a third were scheduled to go out on a distributor’s truck that same day.
The beer wasn’t ready during one of the most important sales periods of the year. “July 4 is a big, big beer holiday,” Butcher sighed.