Co-owner Meghann Quinn reflects on this weird, weird year.
2020…what a year. When our marketing manager Sara asked me to write a year-in-review letter, I laughed and thought she was joking. Why in the world do I want to look back on 2020, and who in their right mind wants to go on that journey with me? I don’t think I'm alone in my excitement to put this dumpster fire of a year in the rearview mirror.
But, after a few minutes of feeling cranky, I did as I was told and reflected on the past 12 months, and do you know what I realized? Even in the midst of a global pandemic, the resilient Bale Breaker crew rolled with the punches, stepped up to the challenge, and gave me a lot to be proud of. Three themes stuck out to me - our beer, our community, and our people.
We started 2020 with two big bets: our first canned hazy, Hazy L IPA, and 16oz cans of Field 41, an exclusive release for the upcoming Seattle Mariners & Sounders seasons. Beyond that, our focus was on our core beers and slow-playing a few small Imagination Station releases and a draft-only Pilsner. Seemed like a solid plan for 2020.
Then, COVID hit. The stadiums (and just about everything else) shut down, more kegs were being destroyed than filled, and we were back to the drawing board. As our keg line collected dust, we quickly sourced an in-line labeler, giving us the flexibility to put beer in cans more often. We released our Pilsner in cans (well, it was Pilsner beer, filled in Hop Country cans, wrapped with a Pilsner label, and stuffed in upside down boxes). To end the year, a big win was canning High Camp for the first time in 7 years. While the loss of draft business took its toll, COVID forced us speed up our plans for innovation in packaged beer this year. (And that’s what they call silver linings, folks.)
Our taproom started the year off on a tear, so the wind was taken out of our sails when we closed on March 16. I remember thinking it would be short-lived - of course we'd be open by our 7th anniversary a month later. (Ha! The naivety.) Once we saw the writing on the wall, we launched drive-thru (and now curbside) to-go service. While it’s not the same as seeing your faces across the bar, we are overwhelmed by your continued support in the nine months since our taproom doors closed. (For all you mamas out there, I have a new appreciation for just how looooonnng nine months feels.)
As the weeks turned into months, we were saddened to cancel our annual Ales for ALS event in June, especially since our uncle Bubba lost his 9-year battle with ALS on March 13. But again, we made the most of it, released Bubba’s Brew in cans for the first time, and extended our fundraising efforts with a 2nd Ales for ALS beer, a (virtual) collaboration IPA with six other PNW breweries. We also started the ‘We Are Yakima’ campaign with I Heart Yakima to support local hospitality workers whose jobs were impacted by the first round of shutdowns, joined the ‘Black is Beautiful’ movement to promote diversity and inclusion in the craft beer community, and released Brewshed IPA for the second year in a row, a beer benefitting WA Wild’s Brewshed Alliance. Gives me all the feels just thinking ‘bout it.
As I look back, I can’t ignore how hard it was to navigate this year as a small business owner. The possibility of extended on-premise closures wasn’t written into our business plan. At times (and there were many), I didn’t know what to do, but what got me out of bed each morning are the people that work at Bale Breaker. The people that kept our wheels turning, even when the future was uncertain. The people that showed up each day, hit with one challenge after the next, but found a solution to each problem. The people that thought up new ways to make, package, and sell our beer. I couldn’t have gotten through this year without their hard work, perseverance, and commitment. As my great-grandfather, BT Loftus, would have said, the Bale Breaker crew is “one to ride the river with.”
As I wrap up my sappy, ‘proud mom’ reflection of this crazy year, I can now see that this year wasn’t all bad. We grew. We adapted. We survived. And we have a lot to be thankful for.
But I’m still totally burning my 2020 calendar next week.
Be merry, friends.
Posted December 17, 2020