The Firkin for July 2021

France has recently passed quite the unpopular law that bars unvaccinated people from going inside cafes. Los Angeles has many bars that are requiring proof of vaccinated to enter.

At this point, I would require it to come into my home as well. The vaccine is free, it is available and you have no excuse. You buckle up to drive to a bar. You obey street signs on the way. A jab in the arm seems an easy one and done proposition to me.

But of course, it is not. Now bars and taprooms will have to have bouncers at the door and endure negative Yelp reviews based on not being allowed in.

This may be the only way though to get our vaccination numbers up. Keep denying entry to various fun activities until enough people finally give up this weird “hesitancy”.

Plant a pop-up vaccination center next to a brewery and see if the lure of beer will get more needles in arms.

The Firkin for February 2021

Maybe I am the only one feeling this way but I get the feeling that beer world has been pretty quiet lately. Granted, I avoid beer Twitter and have a really pared down beer social media but either beer life is moving back toward normalcy with Biden in office or that we are passing through the eye of a larger economic storm.

I am really hoping it is the latter because the smaller confines of buying a 4-pack and running away from human contact has lost its luster, if it ever had it. This coming from a big introvert who has loved working from home.

Whether we get back to February 2020 in two months or six, I do believe that how we all experience beer will be weird for even longer. Some people are going to avoid gatherings for a long time. New brewery taprooms, especially in California will be designed with patios in mind. Creative packaging solutions will arise to offset 16oz can shortages.

I really hate the phrase new normal because it implies a certain stasis when life is always changing. But, it is a handy phrase in times like this.

Peel the Label – When I will drink at a brewery

Not that anyone is asking for my presence at a taproom but I bet that there are many people out there who are on the fence about sitting outside with others with masks going up and down.

I thought I would show the reasoning behind when I would return to have beer from a glass outside of my own home.

First, I will need to have gotten the vaccine. Second, I would need to see a significant percentage (over 60%) of people in Los Angeles County had gotten it as well. Or, a higher percentage (like over 75%) had received their Fauci Ouchie.

Once that baseline criteria is met, I would need to see that hospitals had bed capacity. Because if despite precautions, I did get sick after, I would want a bed available.

Then I would tentatively go out with the proviso that if a space was too crowded or too maskless, that I would bolt. I figure the people jonesing to be out are more than likely people who may have taken less precautions than me. Now, I don’t consider myself paranoid just lucky to have avoided getting sick and want to keep that streak alive.

Now let’s all get that vaccine!

Peel the Label is an infrequent series with no photos or links. Just opinion.

The Firkin for December 2020

How will “dry”uary fare next month? Will seltzer keep rising? Is there a new IPA sub-style waiting in the wings? When will we be back at beer festival? If a year has started with more question marks, it has not been for a long time.

The biggest question being, the economy in the immediate vaccine aftermath. How long before life starts clicking like it was back this time last year?

I don’t have any good answers. The second set of stimulus, the brewery taxation and Save Our Stages bills got held up by the Child in Chief because of lack of magazine covers or some other imagined slight. That going into effect would have gotten us back at least a week early.

My prediction is that August is the month where we can stride to a brewery and have a pint at a bar. There will be sanitizer everywhere and people will be wary and some may even still wear masks even though that is the last safety measure that we should let go and not the first like I believe it will. Until that point, all other bets are on pause.

Aftermath – Part 9

It is not too often that folks will openly let you know that their establishment is not safe. But everything is bigger in Texas, including hubris.

But this post is not about knowing that this bar will soon be on the news as a virus hotbed. It is about the smaller signs to look for when going to a bar or taproom.

A. Tables should either be removed or blocked from use.

B. Doors should be open to avoid contact.

C. Windows should be open to avoid recirculating air.

D. You should see hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies around and being used.

E. There should be a restricted amount of people inside.

F. Masks should be on

Here is a way simple analogy. You do not go to a car dealership and ask for a car with either seatbelts, airbags or anti-lock brakes. There is no OR, it is AND. Same with virus safety. A mask and six feet is safer than just a mask. That is why you need to look and see first before sitting down.

The Firkin for May 2020

I have to say that the moves that the California Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) have made during this pandemic have been mostly smart and effective. They moved with decent speed to allow beer sales to reflect the curbside and on-line ordering marketplace. Let breweries ship beer within the state and have loosened restrictions so that sidewalks and parking lots could be used as seating for patrons to keep that distancing effort alive.

But I am at a loss about this food and alcohol rule. Otherwise known as The Stuffed Sandwich for the great deli and beer lovers spot here in Southern California that operated under the weird rule that you could not purchase beer unless you ordered food.

Now that seems to be back on a larger scale for breweries wanting to re-open their taprooms. But what if I am a vegan and it’s a BBQ truck, or it’s a seafood truck and I am allergic to shellfish or if I just want a beer? Maybe they are looking to force breweries to help out restaurants?

Whatever the reasoning, I see people buying the lowest cost item and then not eating it. It has a two-drink minimum comedy club vibe to it. And it seems to put brewpubs into better position than taprooms.

Or am I reading this rule incorrectly?

Aftermath – Part 8

Grand RE-openings. There are going to be quite a few if people in Texas and Wisconsin are any indication when given any sort of quasi-approval to open the doors again. Previously, I talked about the simple ebb and flow problems that will arise when a taproom reopens but what about bigger parties?

There are breweries that were just about to open, breweries who will be ready this summer and a backlog inventory of missed anniversary parties in the second half of the year. 

How do you creatively balance the celebration aspect with the safety aspect?  On Mother’s Day not only were people viral video complaining about the wait times at Red Lobster but they were going to church, sick.  Less than a week later 200 people were sick.  From 1, one person.

How do you get beer fans to your brewery and then keep them safe and in a fun mood?  I do not have the answers.  I have been visiting breweries to pick-up only with a mask on but I understand if people are not comfortable with gatherings. 

I would say that providing branded masks would be a good start.  Having a hosted video of parties would be good as well with options for VIPs to get beer and special video.   Sending beer to EMTs or hospitals would be good. Maybe doing a drop off for the hardworking grocery store workers.  Creativity will need to come to the fore. 

The Firkin for April 2020

OK, rule breakers. If you were allowed to sit in a taproom today, would you? I would feel safe that breweries or restaurants would not keep a sick person serving because the backlash would be really bad. But if the normal seating capacity of a space was, say, twenty people and there was already more than five there, I would hesitate.

Partially because I do not want to go this far without catching the virus and then get it on the rebound. But, obviously, I am in the minority. If a beach is open , people will flock together no matter if someone dressed as the Grim Reaper is walking with them mocking them.

I will be taking it slow and steady. As restrictions are eased, I will go out a little more, maybe travel to a further away taproom while traffic stays lighter than usual. But I won’t be returning to my normal clip of visits until the second wave has passed. And that first brewery party or fest is going to be real weird for sure.

Aftermath – Part 6

Will delivery be normal after the virus has passed? Will to-go orders and curbside pick-up remain an option?

I would say that both will eventually phase out. In-state delivery is just too costly not to mention bad for an environment healing from lack of cars on the road. Plus, with travel opened up, visiting breweries will more than like return if the stir crazy mood of Americans is any indication.

Curbside though might hang on longer as fear and worry slowly dissipate. Eventually though, the keg trade will reclaim its position and there will be less cans and bottles to pick-up and run with.

Where it may linger a bit more is in the delivery apps. They are either going to struggle with being profitable or struggle to pay a workforce that will increasingly call for more money and alcohol might be a big ticket item that could be used to pay back investors and contractors.

The taproom experience is clearly something people want so that means back to the sidelines for delivery.

The Firkin for March 2020

This has been a shitty month. No sugarcoating it. But part of human nature is to make lemonade out of lemons and memes out of Michael Jordan crying, so it is no surprise that quarantine named beers have started popping up.

I get it and some are quite clever but part of me thinks that this may be a thing to stay away from or now. Granted, I have thought that a brewery should Barrel-age a beer they normally would have sold immediately and name it Newsom’s Private Reserve or Mayor Garcetti’s Non-Essential ale.

But neither would get the joke and would just fall back on their safe public safety arguments while we who are left feel the brunt of the economic fallout zone they pushed us into.

So, instead, I think it would be great for breweries in Los Angeles to collaborate on a beer or two to honor the breweries that did not make it through this crisis. Not something bitter or sour, but maybe a golden ale. The Sun is Out Again rings true to me.