The pandemic sweeping the globe has already had dire consequences for the economies of Australia, and of course, the world. The word ‘unprecedented’ feels like it’s been in every news broadcast and media article for the last three months. When I put the finishing touches on my last blog post about the Ballarat Beer Festival, no one would have believed it would be one of the last beer events like it for some time.
Small breweries have been hit hard. As have the hospitality venues and bottle shops who sell their beer. Getting beer from a tap right now, unless it’s to fill a growler or some other takeaway receptacle, is unheard of. The taprooms which are the lifeblood of many small breweries, are closed.
Bushfires dealt a massive blow to tourism in Eastern Victoria and South East New South Wales. But the effects pale in comparison to that of Coronavirus. The whole craft beer industry, Australia wide, is at risk.
Brewers are known for their innovation when creating the stuff that goes into the can. Now they’re turning their minds to how they can adapt their business and get beer to their loyal customers through different means. Online stores, hand sanitiser, food and beer delivery services, growler fills and even take away beer in disposable milk cartons, are a few of the pivots made to sustain the various craft beer operations for the duration of lockdowns.
Also seeing the looming threat, craft beer industry advocates such as The Crafty Pint, the Independent Brewers Association and Radio Brews News, got on the front foot. There’s a rallying cry to support local beer and a concerted effort to organise and consolidate any and all relevant support information for the industry at this exceedingly difficult time (Crafty, RBN, IBA).
Podcasters, writers, and craft beer industry stalwarts are behind a number of campaigns to mobilise beer lovers. Keeping Local Alive, brainchild of the team behind The Crafty Pint, is perhaps the most prominent. The phrase itself could be considered melodramatic, if it weren’t so horribly real. Suggesting the craft beer industry as we know it could be decimated, is not an exaggeration.
But the lockdowns, social distancing and self-isolation that keep us away from our favourite bars, have also given rise to online meetups and virtual beer events like Beer Together and the Indie Beer Showcase. These are imperative to maintaining the ever-important community aspect of craft beer and keeping craft beer lovers connected with the breweries, outlets and venues they love.
Buying locally made and independently owned produce is more important than it’s ever been. But rather than stocking up on beer, which one should be mindful of for a number of reasons, there are other ways to help struggling brewers. Merchandise and vouchers will help businesses with cash flow and won’t require you to find a second fridge.
The determination of small independent breweries, bottle shops and other outlets, as well as the likes of those behind Keeping Local Alive, and some other selfless acts I’ve observed in the wider community, are inspirational. So what can I do to add to this?
The regional Victorian cities of Ballarat, my home town, and Bendigo, where I’ve lived for the last seven years, are home to many craft beer breweries, venues, retailers and other related businesses, which also have no choice but to adapt to survive. Over the next few posts, I’ll be sharing how this extraordinary change to the way we live has impacted them, the changes they’ve made and how those involved in the industry are getting on.
If you’re feeling the effects of the pandemic response, as many are, please take care of yourself. But please help spread the word if you can. Support local!