What A Long Strange Year It’s Been!

For BeerNexus.com

Well here we are; the holidays have begun and we’re nearing the end of another
year. I took a look back at my December 2019 article and reminded myself what a
great craft beer year it was, with lots of great beer and events and fun. And at the
end I challenged 2020 to see if they could at least keep it up if not do better.

Well, maybe we were all just in a slumber, hunkered down doing our own thing
and chasing our own dream and not necessarily paying attention to each other.
We just expected things to go along as they were, but what we learned was 2020
would be that cold slap in the face, a wakeup call, some might even characterize
it as an awakening. Not since 1918 have we had a pandemic that was as deadly
as this, evidenced by losing more than a quarter million soles…so far.

But 2020 had even more in store for us as a few polarizing events focused us on
racial injustice and minority discrimination. We had forgotten that outside of the
Native Americans we or our ancestors came to this land and we were always
proud of being a melting pot of different peoples. That was a good thing; people
from other countries wanted to come here for freedom and opportunity. And
since many things come in 3’s we also had some of the most political polarization
we’ve ever seen in our lifetimes.  We had no clue what was in store for us when
we started this year.

As we know, craft beer is both creative and resilient, so breweries virtually
stopped kegging and moved to canning. Mobile canning, which was a growing
supportive industry, turned out to be a godsend as many breweries can’t afford
to go out and buy a canning line, much less have the space for it and I believe
the process has gotten better as its matured. Many also skinnied down their
offerings as they couldn’t be selling nearly as much draft when either closed or at
limited capacity, so probably easier for both production and sales, although it’s
pretty easy to slap a label on a plain can which is what many are doing. Many
also felt the need and responsibility to say or do something and joined in
producing their own or collaboration beers like All Together to help hospitality
workers or Resilience for CA wildfires or Black Is Beautiful to raise racial injustice
awareness to mention a few of the bigger ones. And yes, you heard it here first, I
will even give a shout out to A-B, which paused beer production to can
emergency water to help wildfire communities; keep in mind I’m still not
advocating buying their beers.

Of course, there was already an aluminum shortage and the industry is saying
that demand in North America is growing at a pace of eight to ten BILLION cans a
year; which they may well have trouble keeping up with so could be a
different/another problem down the road. And to get their beer out there some
started delivering, while other joined Tavour which is a beer shipping service.
When allowed many setup picnic tables with umbrellas or tents to first shield us
from the sun and then added heaters to help keep us warm while we drank cold
beers. Surprisingly some new breweries in the planning stage opened amidst this

Bars and restaurants were in the same boat so adapted with only take out for a
while but then also expanded their supply of canned craft and started bringing in
ones we hadn’t seen In these parts to keep us interested in trying new ones,
which is what we love. When allowed they also setup tents and canopies and
umbrellas for outdoor seating and put up plexiglass to segregate tables, seats at
the bar and the bartenders. (Anyone wishing they had stock in the plexiglass
industry the beginning of this year?!?)

And we the consumers adjusted first by drinking more at home, either by
ourselves or joining others on a Zoom call (now there’s another stock I wish I had
the beginning of the year), meeting in a friend’s backyard or in an empty hotel
parking lot to socially distant socialize and quaff a few. It was great to see our
drinking buddies when we were allowed to sit outside at a bar or taproom.
It wasn’t what we were used to but we made due. The other alternative is to piss
and moan and complain but basically that’s not productive; you need to play the
hand you’re dealt, which is what I think we, the craft beer community, did.
And many in our community looked inward to begin discussing racial and minority
issues that we’re not immune to and how to move forward and be better citizens
and supportive.

We still don’t know the fallout yet; we’ve heard of some bars and restaurants and
some breweries closing permanently, but if this continues there will be more. It’s
definitely an unfortunate situation but nothing anyone of us can help any more
than by being responsible, staying safe and not helping this lousy Covid spread.
Right now, your local craft brewery needs you more than ever. But compared to
other industries like movie theaters, airlines, performing arts centers, travel
agencies, museums, cruise lines and your basic brick and mortar stores, who are
all just taking it on the chin, craft beer is in a better position; so, there’s definitely
something to be thankful for.

As we wind down this year, we can look forward to a new year. Unfortunately, it’s
going to start off a lot like the old one for a while. As the vaccines roll out (which
amazingly we’re up to three now, sorry I’m not counting the Russians since they
didn’t do a whole lot of testing, just basically said, hey it works, ah count me out
on that one) over a period of months we’ll be able to create our new normal,
which, trust me, we’ll like a lot more than the last eight or so months. I’m not sure
we’ll see many if any big beer festivals but I’d be happy with more crowded bars;
one step at a time is fine with me. And hey change is part of life and craft beer’s
been helping it change for almost forty years and should continue to as far as I
can tell.

So maybe seeing a four or six pack under the tree this year isn’t such a bad thing
and maybe, since it’s the holidays, splurging on an expensive beer you’ve wanted
to try is a nice way to treat yourself, and others if you’re sharing it of course. But
whatever you do the most important thing is to stay safe so you’ll be able to
continue to enjoy all that delicious craft beer for years to come.

So, 2021 we know you can do better and I’ll even throw a pretty please with icing
on top as I’d really prefer not to repeat 2020. Maybe more of us can sit down
over a few crafts and have more civil discussion on issues and create a little
better understanding of each others views but whatever it is craft beer and its
faithful will adapt, we always have.

Glenn DeLuca writes about beer and culture of drinking. He may
be reached by writing thebigG@beernexus.com.

***   ***   ***
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