Our Bedrock – Six months on…
In December 2019, we collaborated with 55 independent beer shops and bars across the country to launch our brewery. Now six months on and in what we’re calling the “in-between” we want to let you know how some of them are getting on.
On 20 March, as pubs, shops and venues to enjoy a beer at closed. We halted production with a warehouse full of kegs and canned beer that would keep two-six months before spoiling. We lost 85 per cent of our route to market three months into trading. Like all businesses, a lot of head-scratching and fast planning ensued. We have all had to get creative to find new ways to try to stay viable. Bending before you break.
The first thing we did was get onto the phones and talk to our industry friends, suppliers and customers to see what they were doing; trading, takeaways, closing. Being part of such a close-knit industry we shared plans and ideas but often we nattered about what beers we were looking forward to cracking open that evening. We knew it was a sink or swim situation for many and oddly it’s been a period of better connectivity than ever before.
First off, we’re taking you to Sir Toby’s Beers. As a beer shop in Norwich market, they have always delivered beer around Norwich in the form of the #NorfolkBeerBox. They even got a feature in our local newspaper – read it here. We met Toby at Norwich Craft Beer week back in 2018 and they debuted our first ever Turtles on our UK tour back when we were nomadic brewers.
“At Sir Toby’s Beers we want you to stop drinking average beer. You see, it’s not all farms and very close family relationships out this way – the best beer in the country is made here in Norfolk.”
Toby and Dominic switched to delivery only but are not back in the market place yet and they have made local breweries such as Duration and Ampersand a real focus in their range. Their pre-made boxes are available by beer style on their website. They’re being delivered by the Norwich branch of Zedify, a delivery company that uses only pedal-power across the length and breadth of the city.
The next round of Duration beers will be going straight into our various selections including our next #NorfolkBeerBox and our Father’s Day box, we cannot wait!” | Toby & Dominic, Owners of Sir Toby’s Beers
Here at Duration, we had to think on our feet and acted without hesitation. We were governed often by our own sense of best practice while in a changing landscape. Thankfully we did find new customers online and many of our existing trade customers came directly to us while wholesale was out of action. Though many wholesale customers are slowly coming back again now. Meanwhile, a lot of our supply chain and colleagues were asking others about packaging and couriers and pulled even the most rudimentary ‘alternatives’ together. The ingenuity often down to independent ‘owner-operators’ with no safety net in a ‘do or die’.
Next on our whistle-stop tour is Brewery Market in Twickenham, London who have remained open for the Duration of the coronavirus pandemic but without setting up a formal online shop. Instead, fulfilling orders via email and telephone for local delivery and collection.
“Since Covid-19 started we stayed open under strict social distancing and hygiene standards for a few hours a day, Wednesday to Sunday. Customers can come to the shop on a “one in, one out” policy or get a (free local) delivery by checking out the menu on our website.” | Brewery Market
Brewery Market had stocked our beers long before we met Linda, the owner, at a collaborative ‘Women in Beer’ discussion that our founder, Miranda, and Linda both participated in at London Craft Beer Festival in 2019. Seems like this years LCBF is due to continue albeit postponed to a later November date this year.
Many in hospitality, the UK’s 4th largest sector, got into craft beer because they followed a passion and found a way of life. We know so many that have been made redundant or furloughed. As a small gesture for our drinks industry colleagues, we offered a trade discount to help our hospitality workers – often some of hardest working out there, to enjoy a little ‘reward beer’ to punctuate their, now rather removed, new lives.
Before we sign-off, let’s visit Beer No Evil on the south coast in Worthing. Gareth and Gemma have used the lockdown to dip in and out of being shop keepers and homebrewers. We have been talking to them about our shared love of Saisons.
They have kept draught beer flowing with flagon fills and they are all-round lovely people, as so many of those who live and work craft beer are. Our tap takeover event had to get postponed but Beer No Evil will be out in support for our #HereforIndieBeer launch of our new Classic Wit – Quiet Song. Gareth and Gemma also have some kind words for you:
“We want to say that everyone has been amazing, our Beer No Evil family both locally and across the UK. Seeing and chatting at a distance to our lovely customers both virtually and in-person has been great in keeping us chirpy. And to our suppliers and all those that get it, and get that across the board beer is our bedrock – we thank you.”
As much as we wish we could – we couldn’t feature all 55 venues. But at the time of publishing, we can say that only 14 of the 55 are closed for business and we wish each and everyone all the very best in the coming months.
These are only 3 out hundreds in the independent beer community going the extra mile to not only keep their livelihoods alive but to get good-quality, independent beer to you, the British public, in a time where the little joys are even more valuable to all of us.
Duration is about time and pace. Change is inevitable, but whatever the tempo we remain a sustainable family brewer in Norfolk.