Unpredictable. Chaotic. Worrying.
Adaptability. Resilience. Teamwork.
Our industry has faced absolutely enormous challenges over the course of this year, and we’re absolutely no exception. We’ve made it through thanks to our will, determination, careful cash management and various government schemes, a whole lot of pivoting to the point we’re all dizzy, and most importantly all of you!
Of course, we can’t talk about this year without mentioning that we had to take the incredibly difficult decision to close our wonderful city centre bar, The Devonshire Cat, earlier in the year. Whilst this was heartbreaking for all of us, it has enabled us to focus on getting the brewery business, and that of our community pub, The Rising Sun, into the strongest position possible for survival.
And ultimately, we’re still here, have managed to preserve jobs across the business, and have so many positives to be thankful for – so that’s what we’ve chosen to reflect on as 2020 comes to an end.
Firstly, our very own shiny canning line arrived at a very handy time early in the first lockdown, which was a real lifeline for us and meant we had much more flexibility in terms of which beers we were able to release in can (over 40 different varieties), and how often.
We’ve tripled our can sales this year in comparison to 2019, with around 375,000 heading out to you thirsty lot! In terms of a proportion of our total output, cans have gone from under 3% in 2019 to over 16% in 2020. It is worth saying that this is also partly because our overall volumes are down significantly – although we hope to achieve just over half of our 2019 output, which we’re pretty proud of under the circumstances.
Speaking of cans, a huge moment for us was releasing our much loved flagship pale ale, Moonshine, in cans in May. This had been something we had in the pipeline prior to lockdown, but the situation certainly sped up our progress. We were able to follow this by offering the rest of our core range, which had previously only been available in cask, in can too, and they’ve all been really well received – and we’re already coming up to our 100,000th can of Moonshine!
Our online shop has become a much more important part of our business, not only with our canned beers but also due to the introduction of minikegs which have been around 6% of our total output this year. We also have our first dedicated international customer, Bassan Bernardo & Figli, who have helped us get our beers into Italy!
We’ve won some prestigious awards for our beers throughout 2020 too, including a Regional Gold medal for Heresy lager at the SIBA keg awards, and a Regional Gold and National Bronze award for our Daily Bread Best Bitter in can, which we’re really proud of.
Whilst we sadly weren’t able to hold Sunfest at the Rising Sun in July, we did manage to turn Funk Fest, our mixed fermentation celebration, into an online virtual event – Funk Fest At Home! We had a great weekend with over a hundred of you joining us in imbibing our way through some exclusive beers released just for the festival, and other breweries from around the country got involved too. We hope we were able to keep the festival spirit alive whilst we all wait patiently for events to return, but the rise of the virtual beer tasting could well be here to stay too. Whilst we wouldn’t want to see this sort of thing replace the real life social elements of a festival, as an addition to our beer drinking world it could be a great way to ensure events are accessible and inclusive to as many people as possible.
Finally, and most importantly, 2020 has been all about the people! We are so grateful for and proud of all our staff here and our trade customers, who have dealt admirably with everything that’s been thrown at them, and enormously thankful to everyone who’s placed an order on our online shop or bought our beer from other independent retailers. We’ve loved being able to meet (from a safe distance!) so many more of our customers, especially locally, and have done our best to keep the community spirit alive with our “pay it forward” scheme. We’ve also worked with trade organisations to lobby the government for fairer and more meaningful support for the industry, whilst the determination and sense of co-operation that our fellow brewers and suppliers have shown has been truly amazing.
And so we’re going into 2021 feeling cautiously positive – whilst we, along with the whole country and indeed the rest of the world have some way to go to deal with this virus and wait for the new normal (whatever that may come to mean) to emerge, we are optimistic that we can continue to pull together and will always do our best to keep adapting to new challenges.
2021 is also our 25th anniversary year! Look out for our next blog coming soon on all of our plans (as far as we’ve been able to make them under the current circumstances) for how we’ll be celebrating.
A huge thank you to everyone who’s supported us in any which way this year. We genuinely couldn’t have done it without you.
Cheers! And here’s to a brighter 2021.
Team Abbeydale x
Photo credits: Mark Newton Photography