A Year In Beer
By Jake Endres, co-founder
Every year, I like to take some time to reflect on our progress as a brewery and what our hopes and goals are for the upcoming year. This last year has been a challenge for everyone, and as bad as it's been, it has not been without some bright spots.
What this past year has taught me the most is that craft beer is not just a fad. As someone who is heavily invested both financially and emotionally in this industry, it's been pleasing to see that people still care and are still excited about beer. During the start of the pandemic, we, along with many others, were in panic mode. How would we survive? At the beginning, I posited that it was possible that every glass of beer we sold might become a can or bottle sale, with a shift to 100% to-go. This was my most optimistic outlook, and as it happens, it turned out to be mostly correct. Transitioning to purely off-premise sales was not easy, since canning and bottling take a lot of extra effort. Big ups to our production team for putting in the hard work to make this pivot possible!
The support for craft breweries during the pandemic says a lot about the enthusiasm people have for beer. We've been in business for over seven years. While that's not long, it represents nearly half the timeline of the American craft beer boom. Five years ago, many people (myself included) were watching for signs of a bursting bubble. There have definitely been some moments of revelation as some larger breweries suffered setbacks from overexpansion, and some casualties of smaller craft breweries that didn't survive. As a whole, though, the market appears healthy and able to support the current field of breweries. I feel relieved that support for our business appears to be quite solid.
During this time, we did as much as we could to adapt and maintain sales, but we knew there would be a fair amount of things we just couldn't do anymore, and couldn't replace. Without events and traveling, we would have some freed up time and attention for other projects. Our efforts to expand and prepare for an eventual end to the pandemic hopefully will bear fruit.
So what's on the horizon? I don't want to reveal too much until we are totally ready, but here's what we're looking at for 2021:
1. Even more Native Culture beers. Our sub-brand of beers using native yeast, 100% Virginia malt, and 100% Virginia fruit is becoming a major part of what we do. In 2020, we released our first two lambic inspired beers. Look for more of these beers, including our first gueze (a blend of 3 year old, 2 year old, and one year old beer) in 2021. Our new barrel room is really allowing us to push forward with these projects.
2. More than just beer. I don't want to get ahead of myself, but wine, cider, and yes, seltzer, are all on the table. We've spent the past year extensively researching, experimenting, and seeking guidance from our friends in the beverage industry. We can't wait to reveal more about this.
3. Expanded production. We're still figuring out exactly what we want, but we'll be adding more tanks and equipment in 2021. In 2019, I believed we had expanded as far as we wanted to go, but I've reconsidered this. There's still room to grow. Our releases are performing better than ever, our new labels seem to be resonating, and slowly but surely our reputation continues to improve.
4. More barrel-aged beer. My goal for next Black Friday is to offer something like Firestone's anniversary ale--a blend of different styles including stout, barleywine, rye wine, and quad. Our higher gravity barrel-aged beers continue to get a good reception, and this year we should have even more to offer.
We're not out of the woods yet, but we are very much looking forward to a day when our taprooms can be open 100% safely, and we can all enjoy some beers on the patio together. Until then, I want to thank all of you for the continued support. It's a privilege to be making ends meet right now, and it's an honor to have such a great group of customers and dedicated staff. Happy New Year's, everybody!