The year 2020: Solidarity good. COVID and NEIPA bad

bierversuche.ch year-end-review

What else can be said about 2020 that hasn’t already been said or grumbled about? And yet we again asked people in the beer community a few questions to find out what they think of 2020 and what they expect from 2021. Of course, the C-word often came up, but not only. Because 2020 was much more than just the C-word. You can read about everything that has moved, is moving and will move the community here.

It was clear that this year’s edition of our traditional year-end-survey will feature Corona prominently. And considering how hard the hospitality industry and everybody that supplies to said industry was hit, the pain and trouble is real. As a result, Kouros of La Nébuleuse awards the gold medal of 2020 to “the entire industry for having to go through such hard times…..”.

[All entries can be viewed at the end of this post.]

Notably, quite a few breweries report good numbers for 2020. Pentabier.ch, for example, has turned a profit, Vaat reached their minimum goal and Gigantic is pleased that they did not lose any money. Speaking for many, Jan of Brausyndikat voices a big thank you for all the support, but includes the following reminder: “please remember we all still need you! drink local!» (Check our #supportyourlocalbrewery articles on online-shops and ramp sales for Switzerland.) 

The word of the year: Solidarity

It is somehow both amazing – and having lived through it ourselves not absolutely surprising – how much beauty and hope people found in 2020. The word “solidarity” is mentioned a lot in the responses, for example by Cicerone Lana of Varvar Brew who wrote: “2020 gave the mantra ‘support local’ new gloss, new reality and shape. For quite a long time the phrase seemed just a marketing motto, something a bit forced, but this year people really came out and supported what they truly like. I was happy to see it.” Accordingly, several participants award the previously mentioned gold medal to all the customers.

And while many saw hope, were moved by this solidarity, Stefan of Dr. Brauwolf expressed a certain disappointment and criticism for what may be described as phoniness: “Many are annoyed by the coercive measures of the state regarding the Corona pandemic. This is not surprising, since they curtail our every freedom. What I don’t understand, however, is that many believe that the state is deliberately destroying small businesses. In the same breath, these people then buy new items on Amazon or a Punk IPA from the [big grocery store]. The alternative would be to shop locally, in the neighborhood or the local brewery. In the end, it’s these personal decisions to shop consciously and locally that are much more critical to the business than is what the state dictates.”

Solidarity in the beer community

Some panelists also found solidarity within the beer industry, like BierLab and Hoppy People discussing among themselves how to improve NEIPAs. Or Max of Five Points giving a special thank you to fellow brewers and breweries in London: “I felt a strong solidarity during this year. While we moved out of the brewery, other breweries helped us to continue the production. Red Church brewed a few batches for us. East London Brewing Company let us clean some casks at their place, lovely guys. Howling hops saved our ass by letting us clean some kegs in an emergency.”

Despite all the praise for solidarity, you can find several contributions with a shade of sadness, an element of pessimism and resignation. So, Jeff Bagby hopes for the current year are that people “realize that it isn’t all about themselves” and Klaas of beyondbeer.de asks for “consideration, kindness, reason, tolerance within the whole society and as well as the beer community.”

Also interesting is that two very prominent products of this solidarity, the international beer collaborations All Together to support people in hospitality and Black is Beautiful, which wants to show that the contribution of minorities are recognized, are barely mentioned by our panelists. An exception is Jonny of the Craft Beer Channel who references Black Is Beautiful: “The Black Lives Matter protests were inspiring, and the brewing industry’s response to it heartening. We can be a real place of change.” We are yet to see a Black Is Beautiful in Switzerland and can only remember one All Together, the one brewed by L’Improbable.

Much that irritated, but nothing more than NEIPAs

The list of annoyances is long, Craftwashing, hard selzer, tap contracts – with even small breweries participating, whining individuals, selfish individuals, uncertainty, lockdowns, legislators and then of course COVID. Always. Again. COVID. And NEIPA. Always. Again. NEIPA.

After a few years and a few “year end reviews” with an equal number of advocates and detractors for NEIPAs (plus Magic Rock’s Stuart reliably decrying NEIPA), the mood has now shifted. The standardization and sameness of Juicy/Hazy IPA and its dominance was criticized by our panelists repeatedly (read about our thoughts on this topic here). From the brewer’s perspective, Tobias of Blackwell criticizes the “bigger, better, faster for IPA beers. Actually, an unnecessary waste of raw hops materials that are only brewed for an even crazier aroma. Less is more.” This trend then trickles down to Daniele of BierLab lamenting the situation where “Citra can only be bought from 250 kilos” or Valentin of mobile canners Lab63 bemoaning shortages prices rising for 44cl cans throughout the European market. “Just insane”, he wrote. So, if it were to Jeff of California’s Bagby Brewing, the best development for beer would be the end of this hype and for beer to look like beer again. To which an Alessio of Intercommestibles would reply with his own irritation: “Talking about the end of the New England hype, or still talking about hype, while it will be a cornerstone of beer culture”. [By the way, we feel that NEIPA and Zero IBU/Hazy/Juicy IPA are two different beer styles – ed.] 

Kveik is the new pastry stout

Last year we asked if 2020 will be the year of the Kveik. And while this style is mentioned several times, our panel does not agree if to like or dislike it. A state we are familiar with from pastry beers – a lot of hate and love. There is still a good amount of admiration for lager beers and apparently a refound love for barrel aged stouts in the responses. 

As for breweries that impressed in 2020, you’ll see a list of expected names like Adroit Theory, Great Notion, Trillium or Cloudwater, among newcomers like Vault City. Plus the new kids on the Swiss brewery scene: Welcome Stranger get a shout from fellow brewers Kouros of La Nébuleuse, Stefan of Dr. Brauwolf and Chris of aabachbier. This venture by Dave, formerly of BFM and Katie, formerly of WhiteFrontier, Cloudwater and Bierfactory, making Welcome Stranger definitely a name to watch in 2021.

Farewell to Trois Dames

Many Swiss people were surprised to sad to devastated about the closing of legendary and pioneering Swiss brewery Trois Dames. Putting it into context, Robby of 7 Peaks asks: «Will we see more of this or is my idol brewery an anomaly?”

Farewell, Trois Dames. Thank you for everything. You’ll be sorely missed.

  • Alessio, Intercomestibles Zürich
  • Ben, Fermentos Consulting
  • Biit,
  • Birgit Rieber, Institut für Bierkultur
  • Bost Ben, Brasserie BlackPig Sàrl
  • Bov,
  • Chris Kneuss, aabachbier
  • Chris Treanor, WhiteFrontier
  • Christian, bierversuche.ch | wortspiele.org
  • Christian The CRAFTS, The CRAFTS
  • Daniel Häfliger, BB Brewers
  • Daniele Torresin, BIERLab
  • Darron Anley, Siren Craft Brew
  • David, Hoppy People
  • Dominik Neff, Landskroner Bräu GmbH
  • Eva Roffler, QoQa Services SA
  • Gregor Völkening,
  • Harley Williams, Unterbad Brewery
  • Heinz Keller, pentabier.ch
  • Jan, Bierversuche
  • Jan de Ruijter, Brausyndikat
  • Jeff Bagby, Bagby Beer Company
  • Jerome Gfeller, no organization
  • Jérôme Rebetez, Brasserie BFM sa
  • Jonny Garrett, Craft Beer Channel
  • Julien, À tue-tête!
  • Julien Manetti, Chien bleu
  • Kägi, Old Hill Brewery / craftbrew.ch
  • Karin Patton, Barfuss Brauerei GmbH
  • Kaspar Scheidegger, Shrinkbrew
  • Katie Pietsch, Welcome Stranger Brewing Company
  • Ken Katanishi, Brasserie du Château
  • Klaas, Beyond Beer
  • Kouros Ghavami, La Nébuleuse
  • Lana Svitankova, Varvar Brew
  • Manuel Garcia, Viking Brew Lab
  • Marcel Thurnheer & Adrian Probst, HellsKitchen Brewery
  • Marco Hermann und Gianluca Bernet, HERMANN Bier
  • Markus Forster, ProBier.ch
  • Markus Hausammann, Vaat OÜ
  • Martin, Sudwerk
  • Mathias Oeschger, Brauerei Adler
  • Mats Janett, Lost Grain
  • Maxime Descloux, The Five Points Brewing Co
  • Merlin (WizardBeerDog) & Family, Not so organized
  • Michu, Meduzin
  • Mike Murphy, Lervig
  • Oliver Martini, 4655 Brewing Company
  • Patrik Feller, Brauerei Strättligen Bier
  • Raphi & Alex, Bierliebe
  • Reto Engler, Brasserie Docteur Gab’s
  • Robby, 7Peaks Brasserie
  • Rod , Bachweg Brewing GmbH
  • Rodrigo Silva, Broken City Brewing Co.
  • Roli Singer, VIB Verein Interessierter Bierbrauer
  • Rylie , Thespillydrinker instagram
  • Sandro Wirth, Zurich Beer Tour
  • Silvia , Brau-und Rauchshop
  • Simon Dankwa, LägereBräu AG
  • Stefan Gysel, Bodenseebräu
  • Stefan Hahn, Getränke Hahn AG
  • Stefan Wolf, Dr. Brauwolf
  • Stu McKinlay, Yeastie Boys
  • Stuart Ross, Magic Rock Brewing Co
  • Susanne Lutz, Brauerei Thun
  • Thomas Schneider (ttt), —
  • Tobias Aeschlimann, Brauerei Blackwell AG
  • tristan, simmentaler braumanufaktur gmbh
  • Valentin Schilter, LAB63 Mobile Canning
  • Van Havig, Gigantic Brewing Company
  • Xavier Righetti, l’Apaisée SA
  • Yannick Muller , Au coin mousse
  • Zwahlen Stephan, AMSTEIN SA
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