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Furlough Diaries

Furlough Diaries: Lauren Hodges

This is the FOURTH  (oh my, this does go on doesn’t it…) “Furlough Diaries” email… if you missed it, last week’s was: Peter, the Jolly Good Beer warehouse manager.

Today started with trying to understand what the government had announced and changed over the weekend… to an end result of: nothing that affects my business really. And I just want to be clear again that right now I see no safe and viable way to resume business for the time-being. Nothing is changing there, and I doubt it is going to change before July. The safety & well-being of my staff and their families comes first – and my judgement is that remaining furloughed with the business mothballed is by far the best option.

Literally as I type this up this has now been released by the government: OUR PLAN TO REBUILD: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy – so there’s some fun lock-down reading for y’all. Note that it says July 4th is the earliest they’ll consider re-opening the hospitality sector and this will be under stringent “COVID-19 Secure” guidelines (which are not defined yet I think.) So there we go. 

ANYWAY… This week we meet Lauren, who works for me mainly in a credit control role – chasin’ y’all when you’re late paying us… tut tut… Lauren does some other book-keeping work as well and actually used to be a Jolly Good Beer customer when working in Cambridge pubs, one of my first customers in fact.

Enough from me… I will be sending around an email of my own on more business related matters later this week I think. But for now, here’s Lauren:

Hey folx, I’m Lauren and I work for Yvan in many guises but mainly I perform credit control services for Jolly Good Beer. This means the majority of customers may never have spoken to me until the last weeks before lockdown when it all started to go a bit Pete Tong. My job is calling customers who have payment issues and trying to help them out. I also spend a large amount of time each month organising paperwork and sorting out returns & credits  with brewers. All the boring stuff that no one else likes, but I love. 

The Millstone © Nicola K. Reiss

My background is alcohol retail, I have worked in pubs and off licences since I was 18 and a fine life dedicated to booze it has been. I started off in a John Smiths pub in Stamford, Lincs called the Millstone which was (is?) an absolute dive. The customers were rough, the beer was shoddy, we had karaoke twice a week and I was a terrible barmaid. I bloody loved it. I knew that even though I didn’t want to work in dive bar all my life I definitely wanted to part of this atmosphere of camaraderie for as long as I could. That was 20 years ago and I have worked in every type of booze retail going and I’ve learnt a lot along the way; I know my botrytis from my brettanomyces. 

Unfortunately, this all came to an abrupt end 2 years ago when I had 2 heart attacks and was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease. I was heart broken, literally. All I’d ever learnt was, I thought, now useless. As you all know, selling booze is a high volume business and that means lugging vast quantities of the stuff up and down which is no longer possible for me. I was ill, depressed and skint. However, here we meet the hero of the hour, the wonderful Yvan Seth; in need of a credit controller who knew the business and being a friend he sorted me out and offered me a job. It has been a live saver. Thanks buddy.

I was the last to go on furlough but the first to be isolated by doctors. I haven’t left the house for more than 30 mins since March 8th. Thankfully I have a lot of hobbies. I sew, knit, garden, I read Sci-Fi constantly and I am a regular contributor to a radio show.

My main day to day hobby is knitting. I knit jumpers and tops, but i have been known to bang out some gloves and socks for Xmas presents. Here’s a few bits I finished recently: Ghost Horses Fair Isle Pattern by Boyland Knits, Socktober Sock Master Pattern by Kirsten Kapur. You can find me on Ravelry: Queenblag

I’ve also been doing a bit of embroidery & sewing. I like to make soft furnishings and clothing mainly. I have nothing finished I can show you lot (I doubt you want a keek at my knickers..) but here’s a little embroidery I’m doing for detail on a jacket.I am a regular on 8 out of 10 tracks which is a radio show dedicated to introducing the good people of Cambridge to brand spanking new music and then arguing its merits for entertainment. You can find all our previous shows on Mixcloud, here’s a link to the last show I was on through the power of the internet in March: https://www.mixcloud.com/8outof10tracks/8-out-of-10-tracks-23rd-march-2020/

If you really want to have look at what I’m reading have a pop on my GoodReads profile: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/13557514-queenblag

I give you all my best wishes and remember – you don’t have to diet, you don’t have to be creative, you don’t have to be perfect, your job is to survive. That is enough. Thank you for staying in if you can, you are saving my life.

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Furlough Diaries

Furlough Diaries: Peter Webb

This is our third “Furlough Diaries” post… if you missed it, last week’s was: Hannah, the Jolly Good Beer procurement manager.

This week meet Pete, the Jolly Good Beer warehouse manager. Peter is one of my earliest employees, the second in fact – starting in August 2016 as a delivery driver on a contract basis. That as back when we were operating out of a couple of refrigerated shipping containers down in Caxton. It’s always pretty crazy to think back to those times… Peter and the rest of the “warehouse team” are the absolute core of Jolly Good Beer – this business has always been 100% about providing a properly handled direct-delivery service, and we have a team of guys keen to get back on the road once trade becomes possible again.

Personally, I’ve been pottering around a bit over the last week, mostly admin and accounting stuff… and madness like correcting the 10+ errors in my accountant’s furlough pay calculations. Scary to think they got it so wrong and it makes you question their abilities elsewhere too 😐 It might be time for me to interject with my own furlough diary in a week…

Anyway, I shall hand over to Peter now!

Hi, I’m Pete. Warehouse Manager at Jolly Good Beer. This is my first job in the beer industry, joining in August 2016, as a second driver (initially as 2 weeks holiday cover for Lee [JGB’s first employee/driver after Yvan.]). 

Cambridge Beer Festival Crowds

Based in Cambridge but growing up in Northampton, I’ve previously worked in the footwear industry, taking me as far afield as India in a sales role. I also did 20 years as a field service engineer, looking after POS systems all over the UK.

I came to the world of beer through volunteering at Cambridge Beer Festival with my partner Andi back in 2014. I’ve worked on the site team there with Rik & Simon (who you’ll all know). Also the cellar team, taking care of all things cask. I now look after beer selection for both the summer and winter festivals.

Cambridge Beer Festival © Bert Kenward

Andi and I really get a buzz from beer festival volunteering. She now helps run the volunteering effort at Cambridge. We also both offer our services at GBBF and Hereford, as well as York on one occasion. This tends to occupy virtually all of our holidays but the social aspect and camaraderie is addictive. So this is a big miss at the moment.

Andi & GBBF

My Jolly Good Beer duties are quite wide ranging, including checking in all new stock and organising it into the coldstore (aka “beer tetris”). Order processing, picking and scheduling. Vehicle loading and driver allocation. I also try getting out on the road myself as much as possible, as I do enjoy catching up with our customers.

During the lockdown I’ve been furloughed at home. However, Andi is working all hours for the NHS. This involves lots of video conferences and means I need to keep out of her way as much as possible.

To try keeping busy whilst satisfying the volunteering void, I signed up for the GoodSAM app as an NHS volunteer. However, despite logging nearly 200 hours I’ve yet to receive a job through this. Fingers crossed. Also, I’ve been doing shopping runs for my inlaws who are in their 70’s and long term isolating.

Live & Let Live © Keith Edkins 
The Maypole © N Chadwick

Really been missing THE PUB. Notably, “The Live and Let Live” and “The Maypole” in Cambridge. We’ve alleviated this slightly by having a weekly video pub night on Fridays with some beer festival chums and the odd pub quiz. Also worth checking out is CAMRA’s virtual pub portal, Red OnLion

During the lockdown I’ve been furloughed at home. However, Andi is working all hours for the NHS. This involves lots of video conferences and means I need to keep out of her way as much as possible.

As Andi is so busy, I’ve been taking care of all things domestic. Making sure the whole family (incl Parrot and Tortoises) are fed and watered. I’ve done a lot more batch cooking than my regular routine allows and the freezer is now stocked with frozen Bolognese, Chilli, Sausage casserole and Fish pie.

Thinking ahead to restart, I will need to get back into some sort of condition. The only form of exercise that prepares you for moving tonnes of beer on a daily basis, is the act itself. But I am gonna have to “Step away from the Boxsets” and get exercising. 

Keep safe everyone. See y’all on the other side of this.

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Furlough Diaries

Furlough Diaries: Hannah Davidson

This is our second “Furlough Diaries” email… if you missed it, last week’s was: Justin, our sales manager.

This week meet Hannah, our procurement manager, I’ll let Hannah introduce herself…

I’m Hannah and I joined JGB in October, shortly after trying all the barleywines at Indy Man (the two things are unrelated). I live up in Manchester out towards the Peak District, meaning I get the glorious combination of great restaurants and city bars, and country pubs with incredible views. 

I work in procurement, which basically means that I chat to breweries about what beers they’re brewing that we would like to buy. I chat to the sales team about any customer needs, beer for any events we have coming up, and generally making sure that we’re getting in a range of great beers in cask, can, keg and bottle for Justin and The Dans to sell to all our lovely customers. Professional beer buying is exactly as fun as it sounds!

Before coming to the procurement side I worked in sales and communications for Marble Beers, and before that for East London Brewing Company, after several years in pub slinging cask ales: The Harp, Covent Garden, and The Old Red Cow, Barbican, with some time at Fuller’s press office in between those. I’ve chatted on panels at beer festivals, poured at a lot of them, and even had a go at brewing once or twice: generally been knocking around beer for a while now!

During lockdown I have mostly been… 

Cooking.

I cook a lot, I find it restful and I’ll try my hand at pretty much anything. I have made:

Nettle pasta, wild garlic pesto, cherry blossom jam – I’ve been foraging a lot in the woods near my house, as it’s a nice way to get out for some exercise without pressuring yourself to travel a certain distance but still with a goal in mind. Only pick things you are 100% certain about, and if they’re wild garlic flowers take them home and make gram flour fritters with them sprinkled with sea salt. 

Pig faces – Lechon ulo ng baboy: Filipino marinated & roasted pig’s head. The Decent Company in Abergavenny raise their Old Spot pigs outdoors and the meat that comes from these animals is phenomenal. We’re trying to eat less but better meat, and I work on the principle of nose to tail because I was raised by offal people (and pig face is delicious.) Porchetta di testa – more pig face, but this time fennel & citrus zest sweet cure then rolled into a sausage and cooked sous vide for 10 hours.

Beige – I love baking and beige food, and in times of high anxiety and stress I tend to reset to beige. Pies with glossy golden crusts, maybe with cheesy leek & potato filling or sausage and onion; roast butternut squash mac & cheese; bread, lots of bread; a bizarre celeriac gnocchi & leek bake; Vada Pav; Flapjacks from my grandma’s cookbook. 

I’m sad that Carnivale Brettanomyces is cancelled this year, so I was inspired to make a dinner in the style of Wilde Chutney. Several courses featuring fermented, pickled, and foraged ingredients, purely with what was already in my house, and paired with some of the special beers from our stash. Oud Beersel Green Walnut and babaganoush; Dugges & Hunter and Sons Kii and buffalo milk blue cheese; Kernel Biere de saison Crab Apple and wild garlic blossom fritters. It was a ridiculous Wednesday and it made me so happy to experiment. 

Drinking.

Beer mostly, and lots of tea. Currently in our fridge we have:

Lager – Donzoko Big Foam and Northern Helles were fresh in this week, and some Lost & Grounded Keller Pils. Burnt Mill & Donzoko collab Dark Second is lovely. 

Hackney Brewery – Millions of Peaches. I buy and drink this by the case. 4%, fruity, tart, fresh and summery. It’s frigging lush. 

Schofferhofer – it’s not cool, sexy or craft, but it is refreshing and low ABV.

Kernel Brewery – we ordered a selection of everything on their list a few weeks ago, so our Biere de Saisons stash range is off the charts atm. The Crab Apple is a particular favourite of mine when paired with the wild garlic blossom fritters I mentioned earlier.

Mint Julep – retro minimal effort cocktails should feature on more home drink menus. I never worked as a cocktail bartender, so my skill set is limited. Luckily I have good friends who are cocktail bartenders who Whatsapp guide me through any recipes I want to try.

(All beer was purchased from independent retailers or direct from breweries)

Practical things.

I started gardening when I moved North and got a garden that I could dig up. I found that if I stick to things that require minimal intervention I’m great at growing things, except tomatoes which I obsess over purely so I can make panzanella every day in the summer. 

I weeded the patio, which was a great idea until I realised that to lay it all flat again I would need more sand and a trip to B&Q is not an essential trip at this time. My patio is now basically a giant wobble board so I should maybe incorporate it into my yoga Tree Pose practice.  

I’ve been redecorating my house over the last 3 years: from a yellow and brown textured wallpaper post-apocalyptic pub aesthetic via crack den to a bit less crack den, I’m down to only the box room left to do. From the awful ceiling tiles to the black and dark purple painted anaglypta wallpaper, the boxes I never unpacked and the piles of crap that have been relocated there from literally everywhere else in the house, my goal is that the room can become my office, but I may need to burn it down first. 

As a distraction tactic I have been making little crafts, things like felt flowers for a door wreath because why should we only put up pretty decorations at Christmas, and I’ve been crocheting doughnuts and ice creams from my sister’s toddlers to play with. 

Things I can’t wait to enjoy again.

Fyne Fest and Brett Fest. Definitely my 2 favourite beer events purely for locations and who I get to hang out with there. I’m sad I can’t be in a glen with everyone this summer, but I recently read Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain and that helped my sadness a bit. Brett Fest is with a beautiful bunch of people and we go and drink silly beer and eat amazing food and giggle our way around Amsterdam for 4 days in ubers, boats and (sometimes) bicycles. 

Boardgames at Beatnikz Republic bar. 

Dropping into a pub and seeing loads of people you know and being silly and loud and laughing a lot.

Three Little Words cocktail bar. 

Women’s Institute. I joined the WI last year and I miss our physical meet ups. The last one we could all go to in March we learned a Syrian party dance, I made baklava, and we giggled a lot about general fitness/coordination levels. 

Swimming. I only started going regularly again this year, but since lockdown I have been getting back on my bike instead and going for a little potter. 

Bundobust. 

The Archers 6 days a week (it’s rationed at the moment) 

Hugging friends. 

Hanging out with my family for Mum’s Sunday breakfast/brunch/lunch/dinner. Just think of a group of tall, loud, laughing people eating a lot near each other and you’re pretty much there.

Picnics.

A pint of immaculate cask beer, possibly with a pickled egg and some crisps.

The train journey from Manchester to Sheffield.

The sound of a pub on a Saturday afternoon. 

Hot pies and cups of tea at the football. 

Working again, because that will mean that the world has righted itself once more. 

I’m off to go start going through the boxroom to see if anything in there brings me joy. See you all soon! 

Hannah

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Furlough Diaries

Furlough Diaries: Justin Rivett

The first Furlough Diary comes from Justin, wrangler of the sales… it’s not particularly key to anything really, and this is perhaps all a bit whimsical on my part as something to fill the space of the weekly emails from back when we were able to sell beer. So take it, or leave it… don’t stress about it… I’m sure many of you have more important things to do with your time. But if you’d like a glimpse into the life of Justin at this time…  without further ado, I shall pass this over to him, and read on…

“Where’s Justin?”

Hello, I’m Justin and I am the Sales Manager at Jolly Good Beer.

My Job is basically to make sure that the entire sales function works smoothly, from contributing to purchasing decisions to make sure that we have the products you guys want to see on our lists are there, through to solving problems when they happen, and giving support and guidance to ‘The DAN Entities’ who you speak to on the day to day.

A lot of my time is spent looking at spreadsheets and data, and making Yvan’s life harder by making him change things and give me more resources to make us able to do more, but hopefully he also benefits from not having to do all of this all on his own. I was lucky enough to be the first ‘non Warehouse’ employee here.

I am based in Bristol, and have previously worked for Ales By Mail and Moor Beer Co in the same position, I have more than ten years of experience in solely selling British produced Craft Beer, having started my own business in Wholesale all that time ago before giving up and going to work for Moor. In those early days there weren’t many brewers, and even fewer customers out there buying this kind of beer, so I’ve seen a lot of changes in the Industry as we’ve gone on.

During my tenure at Moor Beer I was heavily involved in the move from Somerset to Bristol, the setting up of the Tap Room, and in the decision to move from the late slightly lamented 660ml ‘Bombers’ into 330ml Cans, riding the first wave of UK canned craft beer.

A Bunch of Fives -what I’ve been doing in the Lockdown.

5 things I’ve done –

1) I love Bicycles, so I have been rebuilding a classic British road bike made by local company ‘Argos’. Built by hand from Reynolds 531 steel its very different to the modern idea of a racing bicycle, but I love it. I’ve also been stripping down a Mountain Bike I bought in California around 20 years ago as I’ve never really got on with its full suspension frame, so will be using the parts on another hand built steel frame.

2) Gardening, I hate gardening with a passion, so I thought I was clever when I chose a house with no real ‘garden’ but a bunch of planters on a paved patio. Little did I know that weeds LOVE paving slabs, and old barrels fall apart, so I spent some much needed time pulling weeds and replanting our herbs in smaller and less falling apart pots. Because I hate gardening I also don’t have all the tools, so the digging out of planters had to be done with a coal shovel. Not fun… next job is taking a sledge hammer to the nasty concrete raised beds.

3) I bought an X-Box One. I’ve had an old 360 for ages, and have been meaning upgrade, seemed the perfect opportunity. Game recommendations welcome on Twitter @bigdogdrinks!! 

4) 8 years ago I rode a Yamaha FS1E 50cc moped from John’OGroats to Lands End for a small Cancer charity along with about 50 other lunatics and our support convoy…This week I’ve dragged it out the back of the Garage and am finally going to sell it because I’ve not done a single thing with it since it came back from Cornwall. The Missus is going to be delighted its finally gone. 

5) I’m gonna get some Certificates! For ten years I’ve meant to do some formal exams on the things I’ve learned about beer over time, so now I’m on lockdown there is no longer any excuse not to start the Cicerone and BJCP exams. You’ll soon know if I’m as clever as I claim, or just a massive bluffer!

5 Things I haven’t done (but probably should…) –

The Kids

1) Washed the car, poor thing is filthy.

2) Started the diet – still a big fat bastard.

3) Decorating – Two Bulldogs have an effect on your decor, but I haven’t been able to face it yet.

4) Bought anything stupid on Ebay, but I keep looking at hoooge 70’s Cadillacs and there is time yet…

5) Actually ridden the Bicycles I spend so much time and money on…er, I have no real excuse, I just like ‘having’ them.

5 Albums I’ve been listening to –

1) The Wedding Present – Seamonsters: Steve Albini produced noise. Hated it on release as it wasn’t another ‘George Best’ but love it now.

2) GZA – Liquid Swords: All of the Kung-Fu movie samples and sparse oriental beats of The Wu-Tang Clan, but more so. Best of the solo projects for me. 

3) Muddy Waters – Vintage Delta Blues: Purest of the pure Blues. Everything else in rock and roll comes from here.

4) Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back: Chuck D and Public Enemy at their foot stomping loudmouthed best running on anger and the Shocklee Brothers full on aural attack.

5) The Cramps – Off the Bone: Dirty Punkabilly surf guitar driven copybook Garage Punk. trading hard on sub ‘Carry On’ Innuendo and B-movie sci-fi and Horror influences.

(I’ve combined these into a Spotify playlist for your listening pleasure… -Yvan.)

5 things I’ve read or watched –

1) The Tiger King – What the hell did I just watch? Just like everyone else I was briefly obsessed with Joe Exotic and his hatred for that bitch Carole Baskin.

2) LA Originals – rooted in Chicano culture, this is the story of Mr Cartoon and Estevan Oriol as they created many of the visual elements of West Coast hip Hop.

3) Re-read ‘Neuromancer’ and ‘Burning Chrome’ by William Gibson. The origins of the ‘Cyber-Punk’ movement and a new birth of Sci-Fi writing, these books not only talk about a dark and dystopian future, many suggest they actually directed some of the tech developments we have today. Hugely influential and still very relevant.

4) Comedians in cars getting Coffee – Jerry Sinfeld. Speaks to my two obsessions of old cars and coffee, whilst listening to some funny people telling good stories, aural wallpaper at times, but riveting viewing at others. A million series on Netflix.

5) Pellicle and Good Beer Hunting and The Gulp (@shinybiscuit) lots of great food and drink writing out there, as well as the JGB ‘foodie’ page on our Slack, why be in this game if you don’t love booze, the creation of booze, and things that go with booze?

5 things I drank –

1) Elephant in the room – the best thing I’ve drunk recently wasn’t Beer. I love Sherry, so the bottle of Tio Pepe dos Palmas was sensational blended from 2 casks of 8 year old Fino with a significant Flor. https://www.tiopepe.com/gb-en/products/palmas

2) Brick West Coast IPA – Gorgeous West Coast IPA brewed properly to style, and crisp, bitter and full of C-hop flavours ranging from Grapefruit through tropical to resinous, A lot of new ‘West Coast’ IPA’s aren’t, so tasting this beautiful rendition took me straight back to the Day when IBU’s ruled the waves.

3) Boon vs Mikeller Ould Geuze – a refugee from my beer fridge, I’ve had this one in stock a while, and as I’ve run out of Cantillon it was next on the list. I love Lambics and this didn’t disappoint. Tart, effervescent and fruity, its slightly blue cheese and lots of stone fruit.

4) The Kernel – Biere de Saison: Nelson Sauvin. My favourite beer of 2019, just in front of Pressure Drop ‘Saratoga Springs’. Very few new sour beers meet with my approval, too many have massive issues that are masked with too much Lactic but this is great. The Nelson Sauvin is the best but all the hop varietals are good.

5) Salt Beer Factory samples. – I like Col Stronge a lot, and like his brewing a lot as well, so these cans picked up on a brewery visit a couple of months ago didn’t last long at all. Boom! 

5 Places I miss most…

1) E Pellici – Cafe on Bethnal Green Road: More performance art than Restaurant, I love going here for a fry up as it reminds me of the old cafes that proliferated in the East End when I was a kid, and I got taken for a treat after swimming lessons with my Dad. The food is good, but its the original 30s interior, the staff and the other customers I keep going back for.

2) Lost and Grounded taproom – Bristol: My ‘local’ about a mile and a half from my house, we take the Bulldogs on a Friday night to catch up with local gossip, have a Keller Pils or two, and eventually most of the Beer world drifts through.

BOX-E

3) Box-E – Cargo Bristol: A restaurant in a shipping container that has some of the best food around cooked by Elliot Lidstone and FoH by his Wife Tess, these guys not only run one of the best Restaurants in a City that isn’t short of them, but they are stalwarts of the local community as well, whilst on shutdown Elliott is producing food for the vulnerable with a local food charity. Love being here, especially the Chefs Table.

4) Pinkman’s Bakery – Park Street Bristol: Sourdoughnuts…..do I need say more?

5) Pizzarova – Cargo Bristol: The sun is coming so Claire and I will be back to getting one of these superb sourdough pizzas on the harbourside, grab a can of something good from Beer Necessities a couple of containers down, and then get some food for the weekend from Meatbox and Bristol Cheesemonger (run by Rosie, the partner of Moor lead brewer Tom Scrancher) Cargo is brilliant, lots of great independent small businesses run from shipping containers on the side of the floating harbour outside M-Shed museum. I love Bristol in the Sun. 

But really the thing that I am missing most is hectic madness of the weekly sales cycles at Jolly Good Beer, speaking to you lot and to the Dan’s, waiting for Yvan to get the beer lists out, and watching Twitter as those beers arrive with you and get posted up and people get excited…10 years in it doesn’t get any less exciting to be involved in this game.

Look forward to catching up when this is all over, and of course, stay well and be safe.

Hopefully I can get another member of the team to volunteer some thoughts in a week for the next edition of the Furlough Diaries.

All the best, please be safe and sensible.

Thanks,
Yvan

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Furlough Diaries

JGB SitRep

This here is my customer status update email content from 2020-04-17… I figured rather than just the static COVID-19 message I’d temporarilly replace the site with a blog-like series of updates, and here thus is the first post.

Hello everyone,

FarmCat COVID-19 Antics
FarmCat holds fort for COVID-19

I thought I’d send around a status update from mothballed JGB HQ… now we’re settling into this new lock-down life.

First of all – I hope you’re all coping well in the circumstances. Whatever it is you’re up to I hope it goes well for you. I hope you’re safe and well, as is the greeting of the present times… and the same for your family and friends. If you’re working then I hope it’s sensible and safe. And if you’re furloughed then I hope you’re able to relax and enjoy the bit of decent weather we’ve had without being hassled by the police for taking the wrong sort of walk in the wrong sort of place. I’m lucky to live on an edge of a countryside village, the outdoors is nearby and empty… and the warehouse is on a farm. I’ve not been outside of a mile radius from home since March 26th.

I myself am not furloughed as Jolly Good Beer is operated by me as a Sole Trader so I don’t get that option, and the cover for sole traders/freelancers doesn’t help much as my income over the last three filed tax years comes to a grand total of £45.41 per week… I’d be better off on statutory sick pay! So now it is just me and FarmCat at JGB HQ…

Anyway, there are still things to be done despite the shut-down status. I’m busy keeping brewers informed, stock-taking, and planning ahead. As luck(?) would have it my partner, Kat, started working for Jolly Good Beer in December and thus qualifies for the furlough cover which will at least keep a roof over her and my head for the time-being. That went in hand with moving to the same village as the warehouse, so now we live only 200 metres from the warehouse and it’s easy for me to be here without excessive travel, or any travel costs. Small mercies, hey?

I made the decision that full shut-down was the correct option for Jolly Good Beer when the government shut down retail on the 23rd of March. Despite the omnishambles that is our government then reversing this for off-license activities on the evening of the 24th a quick poll of customers indicated there was no way we could viably maintain service. Not without simply bleeding money on overheads and also not being able to provide staff with meaningful hours of employment. We don’t have things like supermarket supply contracts to keep things ticking over, our market is almost entirely smaller indies and mainly on-trade. So, economically, the best option was to shut down – to use the furlough pay cover to achieve continuity of employment, and to pause and wait it out. We do have a bit of an issue regarding stockholding and it’s place in the scheme of our cashflow… and it is a problem I am working on, with the first port of call being discussion with brewers. My over-arching approach to this at the moment is “DON’T PANIC“… there is time to pause and work things out properly.

But this isn’t just an economic problem. I have at least three staff who’re immunocompromised for various reasons, including key in-the-field staff who we couldn’t operate meaningfully without. These folks are higher risk, we also have several staff above 50… there is absolutely no justifiable reason for me to put my people in harm’s way purely for the sake of my small business. That would be selfish beyond words. Not to mention that by operating we’d be increasing daily interactions between people over a wide geographic distribution. So the correct decision for the well-being of my staff and for the greater social good is abundantly clear – hiatus.

And so we remain mothballed. There is only me (and FarmCat) “active” in any way, and I’m busy working on a full stock-take and asset audit, and trying to sort a lot of loose end. Thus I don’t have the time to support ad-hoc collections or pallets, nor do I want to. My interactions with both lorry drivers and couriers in the last fortnight have shown that too many exhibit  laissez faire attitudes towards suitable distancing and hygine standards for the current situation.

Stock-Taking and returning beer to brewers

My focus now is on “cleaning up” – and preparing for the day the on-trade reopens in a meaningful way. On-trade venues were over 70% of Jolly Good Beer business and are key to us being able to operate effectively again. This could be weeks or months away, the future is entirely uncertain for now. However my intention is very much to begin operating again when the time is right… I’ve got the situation sorted with enough brewers to have confidence we can weather this, and I’ve got finances in place to cover our reduced overheads for several months. My key aim is to be able to come out the other side of this with the ability to continue employment for my 11 payroll staff, and 2 contractors – and to continue our service in support of both brewers and retailers, continuing to provide the best quality of supply chain for the craft beer market.

Things will undoubtedly change… but hopefully for the better. (A rare moment of optimism from me?)

It’s quite weird to be in this current holding-pattern… at the start of April Jolly Good Beer reached six years of age. And we had our main annual meeting in early March. It’s surreal to think back to that time only a bit over a month ago. I came close to calling it off due to COVID-19, and we had one member of staff stay away due to the concerns. We were washing hands, not sharing glassware, and had a good night out in the Stoneworks bar in Peterborough. In hindsight it was a bit reckless, but the reality hadn’t set in and the dangerously incompetent powers-that-be were downplaying the danger.

Off the back of that meeting I’d normally be writing a big post about our progress and plans. We did well in the financial year to April 2020… well, “well” in terms of growth. With revenues reaching 55% growth on the 18/19 financial year even with March tapering off then being cut short due to COVID-19.  It has been a big year, with several new staff and the total JGB team growing to 14 with near-plans to bump that to 16 by the summer. And them SLAM… the whole world hits this coronavirus brick wall. Growth is all very well… but of course Profit is key, and as a sole trader what profit the business can make is technically my income. (As if it really works like that when your finances exist in a virtual space between the cashflow dynamics of payables and receivables.)

The issue is there’s very little ‘P’ in distro – well, it seems hard to realise it in my universe anyway. JGB finances track fluctuating either side of 0% ‘P’… it’s a very thin line, with a yearly profit margin being in the region of +/- about a week’s trading volume – circa 2%. And what we lost very quickly in March was a week’s trading whilst not significantly pausing purchasing. We were tracking through to April 2020 with it looking like we’d finish the year on a comfortably positive ‘P’… but the circumstances quickly dropped us from an expected 1%-2% range ‘P’ to negative 0.1%… hey, on the plus side I won’t have a tax bill this year (again, lol). If JGB does continue after this… which is very much the current plan, things need to be different. Still not taking home a wage for myself after 6 years of hard work is… ludicrous, and at times deeply depressing. It’s an issue entirely on my plate to solve, and I’m spending plenty of time thinking about this in the present semi-hiatus.

Blossom on the farm at JGB HQ

In the meantime prepare for “The Furlough Diaries” – with your first diarist on Monday being our “head of sales” Justin Rivett. I’ll be asking the team to volunteer their words/thoughts over the coming weeks to say a little about themselves, what they do, what they’re up to now, and what they’re looking forward to when this is all over… meet the team, per se. We’re still here… just hibernating. (With a beer and a BBQ in some cases…)

In case you missed it, here’s a link to my last email regarding ullage procedures for stock you have on site. Do not destroy anything yet. I am currently just collecting data. As issues go this is one that can wait out the lock-down period and be sorted at the other end.

If you have any queries simply drop me an email.

All the best, please be safe and sensible.