May 23 2020
It’s almost like I needed a reminder of what the inside of a pub looks like….
I’m not a religious man. The opposite is true really. But if I was, I’d describe organising The Independent Salford Beer Festival as my penance for past sins. Like a “slightly” more stressful “Three Hail Marys, Two Our Fathers and a wotsit……”
This year, that penance hurt me round about early March *Checks emails* (the 13th to be exact). That was the day that I sent out the initial invitations to supply what WAS to be #ISBF7. The replies started to arrive within minutes. And all were looking forward to the event…. But more than a handful had a suffix to the message. A proviso. A phrase that was repeated “…. if we survive”
Of course. Covid-19 has wrought profound sadness and grief. The loss of family and friends is a truly terrible thing. Of all people, of that I am perfectly aware. But from a business perspective, it brought home to me the fears of many associates and friends in this business. The entire hospitality sector was in state of fear. Pubs, bars, cafes, restaurants, all boarding up like Florida beachfronts in the face of hurricane season.
However, after a week or two, things – the feeling – started to change. There was a distinct sense of determination (in some quarters), like a survival instinct had kicked in. Fight or flight. And many businesses, breweries and bars in particular, started to think about adapting their MO. Sensing that not all was lost….
Breweries that package beer in bottle and can started to think about diverting production, getting beer out to independent Micro pubs – themselves adapting to an off sales and delivery ‘model’ – setting up direct Web sales, regulations compliant deliveries. But breweries that only produced cask ale were faced with the heartbreaking thought of pouring entire brews and cold store stocks down the drain. I speak as someone who – yearly – pours fabulous beer down the drain at the end of each ISBF. It brings real tears to these eyes.
Then I heard of breweries starting to “Bag in Box”. A common thing in Cider, but not so in beer.
The day that delivery (above) arrived, I danced like a fool. Pictish “Brewers Gold”. It felt (and tasted) like a dream. A classic session pale. And that night I slaked a month long thirst on one of my favourite beers. Nectar.
With breweries increasingly bottling & canning, actually BREWING again, it felt like Spring was on the way. OK, maybe not the end of this social winter, but the blizzards were now reduced to flurries.
There is an increasing feeling of positivity. That there is a light to reach out to. That survival isn’t just possible, but a realistic prospect for many, certainly in the area I call home.
And in my area, there are three businesses that I want to applaud. Three businesses that not only haven’t given up, but have maintained. And reached out to others. Helping. Sharing. Lifted.
Marble. In particular, the owner, Jan Rogers. In those incredibly dark early days, the reaching out on social media work advice on how to deal with “The Man”. With HMRC and other arms of Government. Advice on how to deal, entitlements, that all wasn’t lost. Brava.
Jason & Jules Bailey at GRUB. For keeping going. For advice. Help to small businesses. Small street food vendors might just get through this because of these two. For delivering draught beer and food across the area. And the most lovely Chicken Katsu from Sutikku..
Last – and buy no means least – Cloudwater. For being quick to reach out to smaller local breweries and availing them of the use of their well established and successful Web sales facility. That’s collaboration. And Mancunian.
Stay safe. Shop (and drink) independent. Shop local.
Be kind to one another. Jx