Updated: May 19
Strange, unprecedented. It seems like a given to include these two terms to describe the “new normal” under C-19 Lockdown. The long-term impact of huge sections of the economy coming to a halt, or at least the very least to a crawl, remain uncertain. Craft breweries are, by nature and definition, independent and smaller-scale businesses. The economic and societal impact of C-19 has seen craft breweries attempting to navigate these choppy waters to protect, and retain a business model based around rapid turnaround production and distribution.
Despite an uplift in supermarket sales (the craft provision largely sourced from the UK's larger breweries) and online orders, the ecosystem of craft beer relies heavily on direct-to-consumer taproom sales, keg and cask lines pushed through pubs, and a network of “bottle shops”. Industry body SIBA reported the devastating effects of the current lockdown, with an 82% decline in beer sales since the outbreak of Covid-19. Even more alarmingly, in the survey of 282 UK breweries, 65% of breweries were reported as stopping production altogether.
The wider prospects for the craft beer sector post-lockdown is a subject for another blog on another day. In the meantime, keep an eye on the #NationalTimeOut campaign which has been launched by the Hospitality Union. The campaign is putting pressure on the Government to act to help protect millions of livelihoods and jobs in the hospitality sector, including craft beer.
In the midst of this eerie and disorienting disruption to “everyday life” has emerged a renewed appreciation of the concept of community and the need to support the most vulnerable in society. A network of mutual aid organisations up and down the country has organically mobilised to support individuals isolating or isolated in their communities. Frontline NHS and care workers have received an unprecedented level of appreciation as they face incredible work pressures and their own vulnerabilities to the virus, to treat the ill and protect lives.
It is in the midst of these encouraging and uplifting signs of recognition for frontline workers and mobilising of communities, that the craft beer sector has stepped up to contribute in whichever way it can. So, here’s where we celebrate this collective effort from breweries and craft beer lovers across the country to help fight C-19 and support key health workers.
Brewdog get their hands clean
Craft beer giant Brewdog were early-movers in utilising their huge distillery capacity in March to produce hand sanitiser for frontline health and care workers. To date, the Scottish brewery has delivered an immense 50,000 units to the NHS and local charities.
Paying it forward
Highlighting the collective power of the craft beer industry, 'Buy the NHS a Pint' is a beautifully simple idea: to get a drink into the hands of someone who’s really earned it – our NHS staff. Initiated by Gipsy Hill Brewing, a small group of breweries is coming together to geographically represent the country and show support for NHS staff in a post-pandemic world. The idea is that NHS workers can enjoy a beer from a pre-paid 'tab' at participating brewery taprooms, once lockdown is over.
Kudos to all the breweries taking part: Fyne Ales (Scotland), Wylam (North East), Cloudwater (North West), North Brewing Co (Yorkshire), Verdant, Left Handed Giant and Deya (South West), Duration (East Anglia), Gipsy Hill (South West) and Boundary (Northern Ireland).
Glasgow based craft brewer Brewgooder has a mission to channel profits into supporting water projects in Africa. In another “pay it forward” initiative to support NHS staff during the pandemic, the company is offering the opportunity for you to gift a “one on us” Clean Water Lager 4 pack and a message of support for an NHS employee.
In a genuine gesture of faith, Northern Monk invited the beer community to support NHS workers by gifting four packs of their signature Faith hazy pale ale. No ID, no proof of status, just an unbridled belief in a responsibility from the craft beer community to “do the right thing”. There was a swift uptake on the initial 5,000 free cans, but you still order a 12-pack of Faith from the Northern Monk online store and they’re donating £3 per pack purchased to the NHS
Tribute to Florence
Craft stalwarts Thornbridge took the NHS homage and ran with it, creating a new session IPA, Florence, in a nod to Florence Nightingale, an iconic and timeless symbol of modern nursing and one time resident of the brewery's home county of Derbyshire.
Brewery co-founder and owner Simon Webster explains the motives behind the new beer:
“Those working for the NHS at this time are doing such an incredible job and we wanted to find a way to support them. What better way than to brew a beer to honour them and donate all profits to NHS Charities Together.”
It goes without saying that we need to support our local craft breweries in these turbulent times, but in helping these small businesses we can also show our appreciation and back our frontline NHS and care workers too.
If you're interested in the culture and community of craft beer we think you might enjoy our book - 'Brand Crafted'