‘Stay at Homies’: Craft Beer Taps Into Coronavirus Branding



By Jonathon Sadowski

April 10, 2020

New names offer good advice and an explicit outburst

Aah, Wisconsin. You’ll take any excuse to brew up some suds, even a deadly global pandemic.

And that’s exactly what Madison’s Ale Asylum and Milwaukee’s Vennture Brew Co. did. The two craft breweries released what are likely some of the first coronavirus-inspired beers, just a week apart in an incident of simultaneous invention that could only happen in the Badger State.

Vennture released — and promptly sold out of — its Stay at Homies New England India pale ale last weekend. Drinkers could get their hands on it beginning last Friday; it was gone by Tuesday, said Simon McConico, a Vennture co-owner and co-brewer.

“Normally it’s not gone that quickly,” said McConico. 

Stay at Homies, a 6.9 percent alcohol NEIPA, came about fairly serendipitously. Vennture had started a batch of NEIPA before the pandemic reached Milwaukee, but it had no name. When it was time for canning, the Vennture crew started brainstorming over a question-and-answer session on Facebook.

“That name, Stay at Homies, came up,” McConico said. “It’s hilarious and we needed a name for this beer, so let’s do that.”

The pandemic has drastically altered how Vennture must do business. It’s a small brewery, producing about 1,200 cans per batch. Normally, it puts half of its beer in generic-looking vessels and wholesale containers and serves the rest in the taproom. But now, everything needs to be canned, and the brewery is stepping up its design game with “virusesque” labels, McConico said.

McConico said it’s likely Vennture will produce more Stay at Homies in the future.

At Ale Asylum, Friday served as the public launch day for FVCK COVID (yes, pronounced like the very naughty word), a 4 percent alcohol light pilsner. The beer will also be available throughout the state beginning next week, with initial batches headed to stores in the Madison and Milwaukee areas and a larger rollout to come. All of the profits will go to charitable efforts for frontline hospital workers and other breweries affected by coronavirus, said Hathaway Terry-Pogue, Ale Asylum co-owner and director of promotions.

“(Co-founder) Otto Dilba, the creator of the beer, if there’s kids around, he’ll say, ‘It rhymes with duck covid,’” Terry-Pogue said. “…The V is to try to keep us out of trouble, I guess.”

FVCK COVID was brewed with some leftover lager yeast that Ale Asylum had right around the start of the outbreak in Wisconsin.

'Stay at Homies': Craft Beer Taps Into Coronavirus Branding
Ale Asylum released FVCK COVID, a light pilsner, on Friday. All profits will go to frontline health care workers and other breweries affected by the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo courtesy Ale Asylum)

“We thought, let’s make a pilsner, because it’s a quicker beer,” Terry-Pogue said. “It takes three weeks or so, and Otto went on a computer and designed the label that day. … Ale Asylum never does anything subtle, so we decided to go whole-hog with it in hopes that it would have a positive reception, almost virally, if you will. So far, so good.”

The message of FVCK COVID has already spread across the country. A woman in New York who is sheltering in place contacted the brewery to say beer’s name provided a much-needed spirit boost, Terry-Pogue said.

“This label is connecting people to us in a way that we’re really grateful for,” she said.


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