So we’ve been operating as a shop only doing click and collect throughout lockdown and will continue to do so for now, although are looking at possibilities every day, and keeping an eye on things. We originally tested our processes on some of our homebrew crew and people seemed happy with what we were doing. Many have been surprised that we already had an online store and had been shipping around the UK for the last eight months, so it wasn’t much of a change for us, just tidying up and promoting more. We guess some always saw us as a bar, some as a shop, where as we have always perceived ourselves as a shop where you can have a drink in.
Orders have been coming in and it’s looking like we’ll be able to keep our heads above water, with the help from the government too it’s a lot better than we initially thought. We can see around us people adapting their business model to allow takeout with many doing draft too. We’re lucky in that our special flagon filler has always been a big unique selling point for us. It fills our glass bottles under pressure and in our opinion is the only way to take beer home. Plus we're not using plastic which has always been a concern for us.
Before lockdown we did a colab with our friend Andy at Elusive, we brewed a stonking black IPA and originally Andy was going to come down to do a meet the brewer. We decided to give it a go online, using Zoom we made tasting packs available.
We had about 20 people - mostly individuals but a few people who live together were able to join. It was really good and Andy gave some great tales of going from homebrewer to pro-brewer. His time at London Ametuer Brewers (LAB) - where we met - to his first colab with West London and fellow LAB members Weird Beard.
We heard about Andy’s obsession with 8bit games and also tasted some lovely beers. These included a Vibrant Forest colab and our Black IPA. We’ll be doing more online Meet the Brewers and have some great ones up our sleeve.
Andy also discussed with us selling beer direct from the brewery to survive, which understandably is another route to market that has been pursued by many breweries. We discussed how keeping things fair was important to both Andy and ourselves.
Over lockdown some breweries selling direct have come under fire because of their pricing - selling to consumers for the same as we can buy the beers wholesale - and we’ve seen some react positively, others have ignored any reaction. It’s shame as it’s indie retailers that championed many and feels quite blinkered, and hurtful for many of our contemporaries.
I myself have had some frank discussions with brewers on pricing. There are those you feel you couldn’t raise such a thing but those I did speak to were very forthcoming in discussing any issues. Quite challenging though, as you’d imagine.
One thing we were really chuffed to be invited to take part in was a Time for Worthing virtual festival where we did a mini meet the brewer on Facebook Live. We chatted with our good friend Jack from Hand Brew Co who are moving their main production from the Hand in Hand in Kemptown, Brighton, and setting up a state of the art brewery in Worthing. All super exciting. You can still watch the Q&A here.
There’s also been some great actions by breweries to celebrate independent beer. One of those being Duration, who throughout lockdown we’ve built up a really good relationship with. We were part of their first three core beer launch last year and were asked along with other venues that took part to take part in the launch of Quiet Song, their Wit style beer and answer to the famous Allagash White from Maine in the US. Tasting packs were available for a Brewery tour and Q&A with founders Miranda and Bates. This was rightly opened up to all indies stocking their beer in the end but it was great to be part of the initial discussions with Duration, whom we know you’ll be seeing more of. Miranda and the Duration crew have been great through all this uncertainty and wrote this blog about indie retailers and included us. We were well chuffed!
Over the past year or so we’ve built up a real community and part of that community is our homebrew group. Usually held bi-monthly but through lockdown we have been running them every month on Zoom. It’s a good excuse to get together and talk about what we’ve been brewing and have a bit of a chinwag.
We’ve also run mailing list led swift half sessions on a fortnightly basis. A great time has been had on these calls just chatting about life in lockdown and what we’re all drinking, of course. We’ve had a few messages with those that have been attending and the social interaction has been really positive. I’m glad we could continue doing the homebrew group and also running a swift half because we have the technology.
Overall it’s been a rollercoaster. For everyone. And we’re not just talking about beer. We’ve been lucky enough to be able to see people, and chat. We’ve found that the rollercoaster has been a shared experience. And for some we’ve been their only face to face contact. And for us it’s been a god send, chatting, keeping us sane.
Next...lockdown eases what next?