Almost 6 weeks into staying at home and I have a lot of thoughts I would like to share. This might be a bit rambling, and parts will have nothing to do with beer, but there have been a lot of things on my mind recently and I feel like sharing them here. If it’s not your cup of tea I will gladly reimburse all of the money you spent on your Hoppy Boston subscription. Programming note before we get started; this doesn’t replace my monthly thoughts/links article, look for that to drop next week, although there might be a little overlap between the two.
1. Everything that is going on in the world right now is fucking hard, and in completely different ways depending on your personal circumstances. I think the worst part for me is the anxiety, something that I struggle with even when we aren’t in the middle of a pandemic and global recession. We are all worried about the health and well-being of people we love and that is the hardest thing to deal with. It is especially tough when you combine it with the uncertainty about how long this is going to last, or what “normal” will look like on the other side. The announcement this week that schools would be closed for the rest of the year makes it clear that not much is going to change for the next two months, which wasn’t surprising but is a lot to process.
2. I can’t imagine what this must be like for small business owners who have poured their heart, soul, sweat and tears into opening a business and now face unimaginable levels of uncertainty. This very much includes brewery owners, bars and restaurants and other businesses related to beer. These are industries with fierce competition and thin margins, and they are losing a huge amount of revenue with no end in sight. I have no faith in the current government to bail these businesses out, but hope that some combination of community pressure can help many make it through without taking on a crushing debt load.
3. We are going to see a major number of breweries close in the next year. The loss of on premise and external draft sales is killer, especially for small breweries without a heavy distribution footprint. The taproom model has been all of the rage in recent years, and for good reason, but taproom-reliant breweries are taking the biggest hit right now. Some of the breweries that close will probably shock people. There is always a perception of which breweries are more or less successful, but we have no idea what their margins and debt burden look like, and thus have no idea which places are more or less able to survive the next few months.
4. Even if bars and restaurants open back up sooner rather than later I don’t think you’ll see easing of social distancing protocols anytime soon, and business will be slow to return for even the most popular taprooms. You are already seeing various levels of creativity and even desperation as breweries try to cope. Home delivery has ramped up, breweries are selling everything from meal kits to grocery items to make a few bucks, cellars are being emptied, and some places are even selling their products at steep discounts. This also serves as a reminder that craft beer is a luxury item, and as more people are impacted by the recession there will be less discretionary income for expensive 4-packs of hyped up NEIPA.
5. So what can we do to help? I’ve been asking myself that question a lot lately. If you have the means, support your favorite breweries. Buy beer, buy extra and cellar it when it’s appropriate, buy merchandise, buy gift cards to use when the taproom re-opens. Focus on your favorite places, the places that you’d really hate to see close, and especially the places that are local to you. This doesn’t just apply to breweries. Get takeout from your local restaurants, see if your favorite small shops are doing delivery or curbside pickup. My son turns 5 in two weeks, I bought all of his gifts from a local toy store that gift wrapped them and delivered them to my door that day. It cost a few extra bucks compared to buying the same stuff on Amazon, but we love that store and I would hate to see it fail. I know some people are on a tight budget right now, but if you have the cash please use it to support local businesses.
6. It is also important that we all take care of each other. Social media can be a hellscape in the best of times, and there is a hue amount of garbage on those sites right now. It can also be a powerful community that provides connection between people with similar interests. I’ve really enjoyed the re-booted #beerchat on Twitter led by @LipstickNLager, it has been a fun escape for a hour or so every other Thursday. I think it is important for everyone to find some community and connection now, and hopefully social media can play a positive role in that.
7. Self-care is also important. I feel completely burned out regularly as I try to balance parenting and working from home every day, but I am trying to find the right mix to stay healthy and sane, especially since it looks like we have a few more months of this. It is also important that we all try and maintain a healthy relationship with alcohol during these stressful times. I am trying not to drink any more that I would normally, and mostly succeeding. Everyone needs to find the balance that works for them, and I hope you are all enjoying some delicious beer to help you along, but at the same time I hope you’re not drinking your breakfast every morning.
8. I think it is also important to focus on the positives every day, it is easy for them to get lost in the shit. For me I am grateful that my family is healthy, that we are in a stable place financially right now and that my wife and I can both do our jobs from home. It is hard to balance two jobs with full time parenting of rambunctious 4- and 2-year old boys, but they are awesome kids and I find a ton of joy watching them grow day-to-day. I also remind myself every day how lucky I am to have my wife, who is an amazing partner and a kick-ass mom. There is nobody I would rather spend every day with.
9. Those are big things, but I also try to build in some small pieces of awesomeness into every day. I’ve grown a sweet quarantine beard, my wife usually isn’t a fan of facial hair but is tolerating it under the circumstances. I’ve taught my 4-year old how to play Mario Kart on the Switch and he loves it, it is so much fun playing with him. My 2-year old wants to use his Star Wars plate and cup for every meal and is obsessed with Chewbacca. My wife and I finally started binging Schitt’s Creek and we love it, we’d happily take any recommendations on other binge-able shows, especially comedies. These are little things, but they bring joy to the days that can easily be overwhelmed with anxiety and stress.
10. Finally, thanks to all of you for continuing to read Hoppy Boston during the pandemic. Writing articles and reviewing beers has been a small dose of normalcy for me, and I hope has been for my readers too. It seems trivial to talk about a new IPA during these times, but I think these distractions are more important than ever. I hope you are all staying safe and healthy and enjoying some awesome beer from local breweries. Cheers!