So among other freelancing jobs on the side, I wrote about three pieces and one speech that summed up a bit of the experiences I saw during the pandemic. This tended to put a few things in perspective for me, and I thought I’d share some initial thoughts.
I’m not going to lie here. I think everyone, in some form or another, is burned out. When the pandemic first hit things just went into survival mode. Taprooms closed and became an extension of production, freelancers like myself said yes to literally any job for fear of money running out, and bar staff were just plain out of luck.
I don’t have many good memories of 2020 and although some good things over here like alcohol legislation reform happened, it seemed that everybody had two common goals: Stay alive and stay afloat.
It also brought forth the question that I think a lot of folks who create content asked themselves: In an age where there is so much horrible stuff, why the hell am I doing this? And for beer specifically, talking about a luxury good when people are dying…why? When we were all confined to our homes, quietly having panic attacks over the rising numbers and seeing the ever-increasing death toll, being hyped up about a pilsner or getting in the same damned argument over hazy beers seemed like putting clown shoes on and dancing as the world was burning.
But hindsight has a way of assembling memories in order so the long stretches of uncertainty are clipped out. Throughout this time I saw locals skipping the long lines at the LCBO to support their local brewery, bars and breweries keeping morale up by hosting online quizzes and karaoke nights, and breweries helping out their communities in kind by making hand sanitizer, giving proceeds to hospitals, and supporting charities.
And this was only in the first year. Organizations like Beer Kulture, BlaQ & Soul, Beer. Diversity., and Crafted For All were incredibly busy in both 2020 and 2021 doing the good work they always have been, with an ever-growing audience that wants to do better. Cooking sessions, beer collabs, podcasts, talks, and speaking sessions were not in short supply. And most importantly the conversations began to be a little more nuanced, complicated, and necessarily uncomfortable. A sharp change from years of just having to explain the basics of why diversity and equity matters.
Breweries like Cloudwater in England stepped up with an incredible initiative, Beer With Big Ideas, by collaborating with Eko Brewery, Rock Leopard Brewing, Queer Brewing, and Good Karma Beer Co. on a four-pack to help support and elevate these minority-owned breweries.
2021 also saw the VERY long time coming reckoning in regards to gender-based discrimination, racism, sexual assault and harassment. Back in May, Brienne Allan’s call out led to countless anonymous stories from current and former industry folks. Usually always an industry-only matter confined to subtweets on social media, this actually made the news, leading to some real-life consequences for some of the abusers. Honestly, it’s fantastic to see people finally look up from what marginalized folks have been screaming for years and finding themselves unable to bring out the old stand-by responses of “it’s one bad apple” (though good lord, people try). The Brave Noise collaboration was created in order to keep the conversation going on it. I sincerely hope that we don’t lose sight of the problems anytime soon.
So in looking at all of that, having to work as a professional and sum up the experiences of the beer world through its accomplishments, I began to see why this matters. Because for the first time in what feels like ever, it seems that the industry is actually trying to live up to the ideals that it set for itself. Progress has been slow-going, but something seems to have kicked in the past two years to create a newfound perspective. Seeing more people around us suffering could have jumped things along, but honestly the why and wherefore isn’t the point of focus. We’ve still got a long way to go, but when looked at with all the in-fighting and social media nonsense removed, the car feels like it’s starting to move.
This post wasn’t meant to provide any new insight. I’ve talked about things many of you probably already know about. But as we seem to be entering into another lockdown (at least here in Ontario we are) and as we’re all starting to feel a little burned out and frustrated, I wanted to remind you all of the good that has been happening these past two years. That as we run towards the light at the end of the tunnel there’s another light within us, slightly smaller perhaps but still bright, shining the way forward. And if you’re one of the many who are working towards making life better, safer, and more fun for the rest of us, I just want you to know that you’re doing a great job.
And sometimes we need reminders like that.