Now, more than ever, we all need a healthy dose of escapism and that’s exactly what I’ve found in the form of some wonderful pieces of beer writing over the last week.
I’ve made it through my first full week of working from home with only some minor technical difficulties. I’ve used the extra time I’ve gained from not travelling to and from the office each day to get back into jogging. And I’ve started taking beer photos again and posting on Instagram. Everyone needs a hobby right now and mine is drinking. I might as well take photos while I’m at it.
I’ve also found the time to keep on top of all the beer blogs and websites in my Feedly, so here’s a small selection of the articles that I’ve devoured.
Over the last couple of years, beer has been a jumping off point for a number of hugely enjoyable trips and if you’re anything like me, the current restrictions on travel have intensified your wanderlust. Physical travel may not be possible at the moment but you can achieve something close to it with a little bit of imagination and the evocative prose of Katie Mather for Original Gravity magazine, in her ode to the joys of the ‘holiday beer’:
Welcome to one of my happy places. I escape there during the cruel wastelands of January and February and on the darkest days I cling to the memory of it like a lilo swept out in a riptide. When the nights grasp tight, squeezing winter’s weak, grey-white days into a desperate four or five hours, strong, blinding sunlight becomes mythical. I keep my happy reserve of it safe in my head until summer comes back around, and against all odds, it always does.
The irony of a brass band playing The Sound of Silence at the sort of tempo punks used to pogo to was not lost on me, as all around drinkers, men and women, old and young, sensible and insensible, climbed onto tables to clink their bullet proof glasses and join in the singing…
When you’re done reading that you’d do well to move on to “Disturbance”, his beautifully poetic piece on the lure of the pub.
And Adrian isn’t the only one missing a trip to the local. Hollie at Globe Hops is “Pining for Pubs”, a feeling I’m sure beer drinkers everywhere are all too familiar with:
Going to brewery taprooms, pubs and bars is never just about the beer. It’s a bookend to a day, a chance to watch the world go by, and a way to share an experience with someone.
Right now, even turning up in-person to buy the beer to take away can’t emulate any of that. The taprooms are eerily quiet, and my order echoes around the room.
Leaving the effects of “the virus” behind for a second, Jeff Alworth posted a profile of Ulrike Genz and her Berlin brewery Schneeeule on Beervana. The post is a modified version of a profile that will appear in the next edition of The Beer Bible.
Genz has played no small part in reviving the fortunes of Berliner Weisse and living in Berlin I’m fortunate to be able to say that I can get Schneeeule’s beers at my local bottle shops. I have a 750 ml bottle of Alte (an aged Berliner Weisse) in my fridge, collected from Lager Lager yesterday.
Somebody brought a keg of real Berliner weisse to a brewhouse party. So I tried for the first time a real one of these beers, and I simply fell in love with it. It was not that heavy in alcohol, and the next day was perfect. I couldn’t get it anywhere in Berlin, the real one. I tried Kindl again and said, ‘Oh, neh!’ Of course it’s not good. So I started brewing Berliner weisse at home. It wasn’t that easy, because no one knew how to grow Brettanomyces or Lactobacillus.
I’m guessing plenty of beer geeks have been lavishing a lot of attention on their beer stashes in the last few weeks. Some will be stocking up, while others will be working out which “saved for a special occasion” brews to sample next. Eliot Routh reports for Vinepair on the discovery of a stash of 600 (unfortunately highly toxic) Victorian beer bottles at an archaeological dig. The bottles were uncovered at the site of the Tetley’s brewery in Leeds, a site Steffi and I drove past at the end of February.
Crises have a habit of bringing out the best and worst in people but I’d like to focus on the positives here.
It has been heartwarming to read stories of communities coming together to support those most in need and showing their appreciation for the men and women on the front line.
The craft beer community can be (and mostly is) exceptional in this regard and there are lots of companies and individuals who are doing what they can to make the best of a bad situation. Here are just a couple of highlights.
Cloudwater’s approach to protecting staff and helping others is testament to the values that underpin its culture and drive its actions. It has been doing lots of amazing things, such as using its platform to sell products from other breweries on its online store, giving a discount to, and also collecting donations to provide free beers for, NHS staff.
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**UPDATE** We've had a few teething problems with our NHS discount but it is working folks. Register an online account using your NHS email address and our team will then manually activate the discount for you. There may be a slight delay in the discount becoming active so please bear with us and contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any queries. Use the code cloudwaterlovesnhs at checkout to enable the discount. This discount code will only be activated for eligible customers and remember the discount is available on our beer only and not guest products. **** We love our NHS and are full or respect for the amazing folks who make such a difference to our lives. NHS staff are incredibly vital, now and always. So, in addition to offering them 25% off all Cloudwater beers on our online shop, we would like to provide a chance for our customers to chip in for a beer for an NHS staff member. Purchase a £1 token on our online shop, and for every 50 tokens we accrue, we will ship an NHS worker a case of beer. We will be selecting nominated NHS employees at random via our social media. Please nominate your friends, family members and loved ones in the NHS with the hashtag #cloudwaterlovesnhs.
Northern Monk is also showing its appreciation to NHS workers by giving away 5,000 cans of its flagship Pale Ale, Faith. By the way, if you get to get the chance to try it on cask, DO IT!.
We’re giving away 5000 free cans of Faith to NHS workers between 2pm and 4pm tomorrow. We're putting our faith in our community to do the right thing. If you're not a health worker, do not claim them. If you are, please help yourself via https://t.co/LuFoXykg8T. Please RT. pic.twitter.com/kDHlqq7OS5— NORTHERN MONK (@NMBCo) March 28, 2020
And BrewDog, a company much maligned for its aggressive marketing and publicity stunts has shown further signs of a new maturity. The BrewDog distillery has produced hand sanitiser for donation to hospitals and charities in Scotland and the company has used its delivery vans to take school lunches to homes in its local communities.
It’s not beer related but an unintended positive effect of less traffic and activity as a consequence of the lockdown in major cities across Europe is improved air quality and a marked reduction in pollution.
Lastly, independent bars, breweries and bottle shops are the lifeblood of the craft beer community and as a result of forced closures and reduced footfall are struggling right now. Many have pivoted quickly to adopt a takeout and delivery business model and could really use your help.
I’ve compiled a list of where to get beer in Berlin during the Coronavirus pandemic. There are links to guides for other areas too.
Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay hydrated.