Category: Patreon

| Beer, Craft - An Argument, Patreon, Pubs, Uncategorised

Craft Beer after Covid: Glass half-empty, glass half-full

Last month I set up a Patreon in the hope that a modest regular income would allow me to spend time researching key stories in much greater depth than I normally can unless I’m being paid a consultancy fee. In the first of these deep dives, I’ve looked at the future of craft beer post-lockdown – from the perspective of being fresh from “Craft: An Argument” – and tried to draw some conclusions. This is a summary of that work, with a fuller report with stats and detail available to Patrons.

Seeing both sides of an argument is different from sitting on the fence. 

There’s no point trying to play down the huge negative impact of Coronavirus and the lockdown it necessitated. The hospitality sector has been hit worse than most, and within that, there’s a lot of evidence to suggest the craft sector, consisting mainly of small, independent businesses, will end up faring worse than the mainstream:

  • – Small pubs and micropubs will find it more difficult to reopen than larger chains.
  • – While some small, independent brewers have done well with online sales and (free) local delivery, overall small brewers suffered an 80% drop in volume during lockdown and 65% had to close.
  • – The lack of sufficient notice that 4th July would definitely be the reopening date did not give small brewers enough time to prepare.
  • – With lower capacity, pubs are likely to reduce the number of lines on the bar – in fact they’d be wise to.
  • – Big brewers are giving huge support to pubs, including thousands of pints of free beer. Helpful to pubs, yes, but likely to pressure small brewers off the bar even further.

There will be a colossal short-term impact. Businesses are going bust and people are losing their jobs. They’ll continue to do so.

But that’s only half the story. 

While I wrote “Craft” during lockdown, I deliberately avoided speculating on what lockdown might mean for the craft beer movement, because that would have dated it quickly. In the book, I look beyond the issues of ownership and independence that have come to dominate the debate over what is and isn’t ‘craft’. 

The recent boom in craft – in beer and beyond – is a reaction to a mix of factors including the 2008 global financial crash, the spread of superfast, handheld mobile computing and communications, open plan office culture, the growing degree to which algorithms dictate our decisions and behaviours, the arrival of Artificial Intelligence, and the ongoing creep of corporate dominance and homogenisation in all aspects of our lives.

These factors combine to create two separate but related themes that drive craft. One, the personal need to do more with our hands than tap or swipe; to engage with the world around us in a more meaningful, physical way, and two, the desire to escape the corporate rat race, to live better, to be better, to be more fulfilled. 

If we can’t do these things personally, we console ourselves with actively choosing products from people whom we believe have done it on our behalf, and live vicariously through them. 

There have been many changes in lockdown, and we see some of them as positive. Almost all the positive ones feed directly into this narrative around the broader idea of craft. If, before lockdown, we wanted to reject a bland, boring mainstream, to slow down, to experience life more vividly and personally, to support local businesses, to be kinder and more compassionate, to reject the open-plan, “computer says no” office environment, lockdown has not only heightened those desires – it’s shown that it is possible for all of us to act on at least some of them.

Those craft brewers that survive the short-term hit will face an environment that, while remaining subdued, will be far more in tune with the principles that motivate the brewers, retailers and drinkers of craft beer than it was pre-Covid. At the moment, it seems that the underlying motivations and themes that make craft beer so appealing to an ever-increasing number of people are being strengthened by people’s experiences. For all its negative effects, for all the death and hurt the virus has caused and for all the economic hardship to come, lockdown was time-out, a chance to reflect. 

Stripped of the daily commute, the constant travel, the endless crowds, the noise and spectacle with which we usually fill our lives, we’ve had the chance to discover – or re-discover – what really matters to us. We’ve realised that, while this state of affairs is far from ideal, there are some good bits. 

Craft brewers – rightly or wrongly – are generally perceived as, among other things,  smaller and more independently-minded, more progressive in their attitudes, kinder, friendlier and more collaborative than their corporate, industrialised rivals, more face-to-face in their communications, more physically engaged with both the nature of their work and the communities they exist within and do business with. All of this has become more appealing as a result of lockdown. 

The future – eventually – will be bright. 

The full report is available on Patreon to anyone who signs on at the £3 tier or above. (While it’s a regular monthly subscription, you’re perfectly free to sign just for a month and then cancel.)

Craft: An Argument is available here on Kindle and here as a print-on-demand version. The audiobook will be ready as soon as the drilling stops outside my house.

| Beer Writing, Patreon, Writing

More new writing from me for the price of a pint: Why I’m launching a Patreon

Become a Patron!

When I started writing about beer, I never thought I would make a lot of money from it, and it certainly hasn’t let me down on that score… 

Giving up a lucrative career in advertising was one of the best decisions I made, and I’m delighted that my work writing and commenting on the beer scene has – allegedly – helped influence the industry and broadly supported brewers, pubs and people who drink beer. 

However, did you know:

  • – The National Union of Journalists recommends remuneration of 25p per word for articles. It’s rare as a freelancer to be paid this much, especially in trade press titles. 18-22p a word is more common, with most columns typically paying between £150 and £180 a time.
  • – The standard remuneration for authors of books is 8-10% of net receipts to the publisher. If a book is heavily discounted, that means an author can make as little as a few pence per copy sold. The average income of an author in the UK is just £12,500 – around half the overall UK average income and well below the minimum wage – and it’s falling.
  • – As people increasingly expect “content” for free, we have to create free content to maintain our standing and profile. Between blog posts, podcasts, social media commentary, industry events, running magazines such as Original Gravity and Full Juice, and launching schemes such as the Beer and Cider Marketing Awards, I spend 40-50% of my time creating content and events for which I receive no payment at all.   

I’m no different from my colleagues who do similar jobs to me, in that we do it because we’re passionate about it, and because money is not the most important thing in life. 

Inspired by fellow beer communicators such as Boak & Bailey, Lily Waite and Pellicle magazine, I realised that even a modest monthly income allows me a greater degree of financial stability and the ability to spend more time creating exclusive content focusing on issues that you might find interesting, as well as writing blog posts that are free to access, which I currently cannot justify doing. 

I will still be posting free content on this blog – in fact if anything, I’ll probably be able to post more often. But when I’m doing a long, in-depth analysis piece, I’ll post a short summary here with a link to longer read available on the Patreon.

I’ve been blogging since 2006. In that time, I have never accepted advertising or sponsorship on my blog. In the age of the “influencer”, where people are paid vast sums of money to pretend to like products they’ve been sent for free, I intend to remain an independent voice. No one likes everything I say. But whether it makes you angry, confused or happy, I aim to guarantee that what you are getting is my own, personal point of view. 

Putting together my Patreon launch – at a time when we are experiencing lockdown – has provided an explosion of creative inspiration. I’ve been thinking about new ideas such as podcasts, webinars, events in the real and virtual world, and “deep dive” explorations of important subjects and topics that can’t be covered in a short press article, but don’t quite justify a full-length book. If Patreon works, all this will be cropping up here sooner or later.  

At my top subscription level, I’ll also be offering advice and content specifically for professionals in the business of making and selling beer and cider, drawing on my 30 years marketing experience, 20 of those as a close observer of the drinks and hospitality industries.

During this launch period, there are also special offers relating to my new book, Craft: An Argument, which is published on 25th June.

So follow the link below. Take a look around. Make yourself feel at home. And imagine you’re buying me a pint. 

Become a Patron!