Thanks to COVID, life as we know it as changed for everyone, and when it comes to beer, there have been a few notable changes. COVID hit, and so did the panic, but it was interesting to see how different breweries reacted when all faced with a similar situation. I have experienced it a consumer (yes, I love beer from other breweries!) but mainly as a brewer and small business owner.
From a beer lover’s perspective, the days of traveling explicitly for beer are a thing of the past. It wasn’t uncommon to run into other beer enthusiasts with the same goals: checking out as many breweries on our radar as possible and grabbing a few bottles or cans from each to share with our beer-loving friends back home (or selfishly hoard them in the cellar).
During the “shutdown,” breweries providing free or low-cost shipping created the opportunity to explore Ontario’s assortment of breweries who are working hard to keep momentum going, morale up, and staff employed. I am guilty, as I’m sure many of you are, of treating myself to beer from hundreds of km’s away that I would normally not have the chance to try! It also felt good to support an independent business facing difficulties and stresses due to the pandemic.
This leads me to my experience operating Counterpoint. Before getting over-sentimental about how much we love and appreciate our customers, I want to touch on why we closed our doors when technically, we weren’t mandated to do so. Having a small retail space, we were allowed to remain open only for bottle purchases. However, we chose to lock up and transition to 100% online sales. Without our taproom, we were forced to convert to the labour-intensive, time consuming process bottling all inventory. Between that and feeling the responsibility to keep our customers, ourselves and our families safe, closing the doors was the obvious answer, but it was a scary change.
As it happens, the majority of our customers are comfortable with e-commerce and, minus a few bugs, the transition to an online bottle shop was relatively painless. We made a few exceptions, accommodating those that preferred not to shop online, or for those times that the website was throwing out random error messages.
I want you, our customers, to know that while you weren’t able to sit in, and our interactions were limited, you were at the front of our minds throughout the shutdown. Your words of encouragement (including the ridiculous notes accompanying the online orders), and quick conversations in the parking lot, social media interactions meant a lot. You kept us motivated and kept us creative, so that we could continue making beer that we would drop in your trunk or at your doorstep. I am sure one of the most difficult parts of sticking with us during this has been all the revised COVID-related policies (shopping, pick-up, delivery, patio and taproom rules). I count 9 documents or revisions that I have emailed, shared or posted, but as the dynamics of the pandemic, and government regulations changed, we had to as well!
COVID slowed us down and we took a hit, but so far, we have endured. This is all thanks to you. At this point, our doors are open, and it feels great to have people in to take a seat, grab a glass of beer and chat about… pretty much everything. Everyone has been extremely respectful towards us, public health protocols and each other, and I can comfortably make the assumption that this is likely the case for all the other breweries that are allowing customers through their doors again.
We are doing everything we can to keep our customers and ourselves safe, while staying positive and making beer that we hope you love.
I have said it a thousand times, but you’re the reason we’ve made it this far and the reason we’ll persevere. I sincerely wish you and your families the best during this time and am really looking forward to a time when we can say hello and smile without the being muffled by the mask!
Cheers all, stay healthy, stay positive and thank you for supporting Counterpoint!