We are family

The craft beer community has shown its true colours during the Covid-19 crisis, writes Siobhan Hewison

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During these weird, stressful and downright scary times, many people in the beer industry have been going above and beyond - not only to keep beer in the hands of thirsty drinkers, but also to do good in their local area. 

In the face of a global crisis, breweries and businesses local to them have banded together to do what they can to help the general public, from delivering food as well as beer, to giving away ‘care packages’ of beer to key workers, to organising online pub quizzes to keep people entertained while the country is on lockdown. Read on for some lovely, creative and heartwarming stuff - it will make you feel proud to be part of such a wonderful community, even if you’re just someone who buys craft beer. NO, YOU’RE CRYING. 

NHS AND KEY WORKERS 

Showing appreciation for the hard work of NHS staff is one of the biggest ways in which the beer community has excelled. For instance, my mum, who is a pharmacy dispenser at an NHS hospital in Newcastle, visited a brewery local to her to buy some beer. She went to pay, and upon seeing her NHS badge, the taproom employee said she could have the beer for free - a small act of kindness, but it nearly brought my wee mum to tears. It may be ‘just some beer’ but gestures like this help keep morale up amongst those working in stressful, often gruelling, conditions. 

In a similar vein, Gipsy Hill in London has added the option to 'pay a pint forward' for NHS staff on its webshop, which will be added to a bar tab at the taproom once it’s reopened. 

Aberdeen’s Fierce Beer has new beer launching in early April with all profits going to NHS. It’s called Long Shift, and is a tasty-sounding Chinook and Centennial pale ale. All profits of this beer will be split between NHS Charities Together and NHS Scotland.

Elsewhere in Scotland, Glasgow’s Brewgooder has started the One On Us campaign, where those visiting the Brewgooder online shop can donate a four-pack of beer and a message of support to an NHS worker - if you’re an NHS worker, you can register to receive a donated round. 

Lost and Grounded down in Bristol is giving away Thank You beers for key workers in its home city who are working to keep locals safe and healthy - you can submit your team for a daily draw (Monday-Friday) on its website, and lucky winning teams will get a box of beer delivered the next day to share. 

BUSINESSES SUPPORTING EACH OTHER 

As well as showing support for the NHS and other key workers, breweries have been teaming up with local businesses in an effort to increase visibility of independent companies who may be struggling financially during this difficult time. For instance, Double-Barrelled Brewery in Reading has appealed for donations for its local food bank while out and about delivering online orders - how nice is that? 

Hartlepool-based Donzoko Brewery has teamed up with local tea, coffee and meat suppliers, so those needing their fix of Northern Helles can support indie businesses too when buying from the Donzoko webshop. 

North Brewing in Leeds, as well as offering a 20% NHS discount, has included an optional £2 donation on all local deliveries to support Action Against Hunger, as the majority of the charity’s fundraising partners are restaurants - a sector which is almost entirely frozen during this lockdown. 

Manchester’s Cloudwater Brew Co.’s online shop now features the option to buy organic fruit and veg boxes or prepared vegan meals from local restaurant Higher Ground, alongside Cloudwater beer and sodas. As well, for every two meals purchased, one will be given to an NHS worker. It’s also offering 25% off Cloudwater products to NHS staff and key government workers. 

Musically-minded London-based brewery Signature Brew has come up with an all-in-one Pub in a Box, which is locally hand delivered by musicians who’ve had their tours cancelled (thus allowing them to still earn money - Signature Brew is paying them London Living Wage). The box includes its core range of beers, some beer glasses, beer mats, a vinyl record, a pub quiz, a Spotify playlist, and yummy pub snacks. 

Kent hop merchant Simply Hops has set up a directory of European breweries, bottle shops, bars and pubs offering takeout or delivery services, called Beer Is Here, to help support small independent businesses that are at risk in these trying times. 

#LOVEYOURLOCAL 

Pubs, often the nucleus of local communities, have also been at the centre of all this pandemic niceness. God bless the humble pub. 

The Orange Tree in Baldock, Hertfordshire, has reinvented itself as a grocers and off-license, to help locals with access to fresh produce and fresh booze. In an admirable act of generosity, it has also set up a Just Giving page for donations to the Baldock Musicians Support Fund, which will help struggling musicians who would otherwise be earning their income playing in local pubs and clubs. 


The Geese and Fountain

Similarly, the Geese and Fountain in Croxton Kerrial, Leicestershire, has temporarily turned into a village shop. You can buy (contact-free from the car park or from its 'shop window’) local veg boxes, household essentials like bread, milk, butter and toilet roll, and hot food such as pizzas. The pub staff is even doing veg box and cooked meal deliveries to those isolating and to vulnerable households across about a dozen villages in its local area, and it has started offering Sunday Lunch deliveries for those missing their weekly pub roast fix. And if that wasn’t enough, it is also hosting a Facebook Live pub quiz to keep its regular trivia-nuts entertained, and is asking for donations to the local food bank in lieu of participation fee. 

Virtual pub quizzes seem to be the entertainment choice of the moment, since they’re a key social activity that pub-goers can still participate in whilst socially distancing. The team behind the Brass Castle brewery taproom has organised a regular online pub quiz and an open mic night, both of which have proven successful with regulars and non-local Brass Castle beer fans alike.

The Enigma Tap in North Shields recently ran a virtual pub quiz to raise funds for the Bay Foodbank, which was so popular (raising £250) that it has now become a weekly thing. Punters are asked to pay £2 to join, and the pub is covering the VAT/transaction fee to make sure that 100% donations go to the food bank. 

KEEPING US CLEAN 

To help with the months-long shortages of hand sanitiser, breweries and distilleries across the country have been using their facilities to make high-strength alcohol to use in hand rub, and donating it to the services who need it the most. 

The likes of BrewDog, Electric Spirit Co. and Leith Gin Distillery in Edinburgh, Salcombe Gin, Silent Pool Gin, Stirling Gin, Shed Gin in Ulverston, and Shepherd Neame in partnership with Rivet Distillery in Kent, have all been pitching in to help with the overwhelming demand for sanitising liquid products in their local area.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Nick from the Geese and Fountain says that he has high hopes for trade once pubs are allowed to open again - non-pub-goers have been using the pub’s services during lockdown, and feedback for food deliveries has been positive. It is also likely to continue with the ‘village store’ service, since Croxton Kerrial lost its village shop at Christmas, and Nick reckons that all this has strengthened the local community during such a trying time. It’s things like this that show us the value of banding together and considering the needs of our neighbours and friends - it’s just a shame that it took a global pandemic to rally us into action. 

Researching this article was so uplifting - there’s approximately another million breweries and beery companies doing kind, thoughtful things that I could have included in here. If our small-yet-mighty beer community can make such a difference, it just goes to show that we have the power to help each other on a larger scale. I hope our kindness and compassion carries on once this pandemic is declared over - we clearly have it in us, and if 2020 has taught us anything so far, it’s the value of community. 

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A note from the editor

We’d originally agreed to steer clear of coronavirus this issue, on the grounds that you’ve probably read enough. But, given our theme, it’s become impossible to ignore the amazing way the UK’s breweries and pubs have responded to the crisis, in terms of supporting each other, their suppliers, employees and customers. If you’re looking for evidence that craft beer is a force for good in the country, then this really says it all.


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