Behind the brew, part 2: How COVID-19 is impacting the beer industry

This is the second in a series in which we talk to brewers to find out how they’re weathering the storm. This week we chatted with Rory Rancellas, the owner and brewer of Aegir Project Brewery and Taprooms. Rory is one of the country’s best craft brewers and has built his business model around a taproom experience.

How have the last 100+ days been for your brewery/taproom?

Emotional, stressful, not nice – all of the above.

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⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 🐶Aegir apologises for the inconveniences but in accordance to the new regulations we will have new opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday: 11-6pm Sunday’s: 10-1pm PUBLIC HOLIDAYS:10-1pm (this Saturday is Human Rights day) ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ BOTH NOORDHOEK TAP ROOM AND CONSTANTIA ALE HOUSE ARE CURRENTLY TAKE AWAY ONLY ZONES. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ We will only be serving growler fills and take away cans. We are working on some creative ways to make sure you can still get your beers, hopefully have additional options on canned beers and self isolation solutions in place in the next week😁🧠🍺 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Card Payments only and preferable tap and go option available. 💳 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Kindly respect our bartenders personal space while they are busy with your order. 🤺 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Small businesses need all the support we can give right now, We thank you for the support through these tough times. 🙏

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How has your business adapted to survive?

We had to move from an experience-based offering and only serving from tap to packaging and takeaway beers. Two weeks before lockdown we realised how vulnerable our business model was to COVID-19 and invested in canning lines, shifting entirely to takeaway beer in cans.

How have your employees/staff been affected?

Considerably. We have tried to support as many as we can for as long as we can, but sadly a number of jobs have been lost.

Being a taproom-based business, what is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far and how are you dealing with it?

Adaption. We have to constantly try and adapt to the new legislation and regulations while keeping the business afloat.

Do you think the initial alcohol ban was needed and do you feel it was effective?

There will be strong opinions for and against this, and we don’t have all the facts and numbers as COVID-19 is still such an unknown entity in many ways. When you’re working with the unknown, precautions are necessary, and we are very much in support of the initial lockdown and how the government handled the situation. It’s still too early to have an outright opinion about this second phase. All we know for sure is the amount of suffering in job losses and good businesses that are left with no option but to close their doors is insurmountable and heartbreaking.

How do you feel about the second and immediate ban?

60% rage and sadness at how many affected there will be; 35% tired and at a loss of how to keep making things work; and 5% starting to make peace with it then re-adapt again.

Do you think that this is the end for our young craft beer industry?

No – this is a huge hit for many industries, but there is too much fight and passion in our industry for it all to disappear. We may all need time to recover, but hopefully it will still be standing in the end.

Do you think we will ever go back to normal? Or what will the new normal look like for craft beer?

No idea. I would love to think this will all be over in a few months, but the reality and speculation would predict otherwise. All I can hope for is that people will realise the importance of supporting small companies. We will need everyone working together to get through these uncharted waters.

Do you see any positives coming out of this pandemic?

I think it has helped many see how resilient they can be. For our business, it has allowed us the opportunity to package our product more efficiently and learn new processes in the brewery.

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ITS JUST A WEE HEAVY 🍺⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Understatement of the year! 🌊⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Think grandmas sticky oatmeal biscuits! 🍪 A Scottish styled 90 Shilling which is a strong, malt forward beer. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Aroma: Biscuits, Stone fruit, Treacle and Burnt Sugars ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Flavour: Rich Malt, Sultana’s , Subtle Stone Fruits and Burnt Honey ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Malts: Golden Promise Crystal T50 English Premium Caramalt Aromatic Chocolate ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Hops: Cascade ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Yeast: Edinburgh Ale Yeast ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #aegirpoject #weeheavy #90shilling #ale #beer #can #fresh #realale

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How can people support your brewery/taproom through this time?

I know everyone has heard this so many times that it has almost lost all meaning, but to be honest it would be amazing if everyone could just support local. Your local restaurant, farmer, brewery, whoever it may be. As a small local business, that has been our lifeline and it has helped us in turn to support other local businesses. We will hopefully be back in full swing once this lockdown is over!

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