A Deferred January – We Have to Keep Helping the Producers and Retailers

A Deferred January – We Have to Keep Helping the Producers and Retailers

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

It’s January, time for new beginnings and resolutions, but what’s best is that it isn’t 2020 anymore. For some people, January is dry. Dry January probably started decades ago on an individual level (in 2003 one guy called it Drynaury), but the British concern called Alcohol Change UK began in 2013 as a way to bring the issue of over drinking to the forefront. It was trademarked by them in 2014 and they say they have data that proves people who participate in a dry January are still drinking less alcohol late in the year.

Dry January. Whether it is for health, to help with weight loss, as a detox for the holidays, or to save money, Dry January has been gaining popularity in recent years. It isn’t that a majority of drinkers participate or even a sizable minority, but it is more people now than it used to be. For some drinkers a Dry January serves as a reminder how much they do enjoy alcohol when used properly, and can actually make them more dedicated craft beverage fans.

January is traditionally a down month for craft beer sales. image credit: craftbeer.com

The problem with a Dry January for fans of craft beverage producers is that it costs breweries, wineries, and distilleries money. You don’t buy drinks; they don’t make money. The timing of Dry January actually sucks as much for craft beverage producers as its mere existence; January is traditionally the slowest period of the year for sales anyway. Look at this article (here) for more information on why it is slow and how breweries try to combat it.

Add in the current restrictions on dining, taproom seating, events, and the previous months of slow sales because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and it would seem that the first month of 2021 IS NOT the time for a Dry January. Nevertheless, I am going to try one this year. It will actually be from Jan.2 – Feb. 2 since we had a bottle share on New Years Day, but the point is still valid – it’s a month without alcohol.

A Deferred January. Why am I doing a Dry January? Mostly so I can write about it and the issues surrounding it, but also to show people they can support Indiana craft beverages without actually drinking on the spot and to prove I can do it without personal trauma. I’ve been covering Indiana craft beer and then craft beverages in general for almost five years now; that’s 345 days a year or so traveling to talk to people about their beer and, of course, trying the beer. I’ve done a few days in a row without beer here and there, but nothing even close to a month. This could be both a challenge and frustrating – I’m only a couple days in and I am already worried about missing something special.

How do you negotiate beer samples from friends during a Dry January? image credit: culture trip

Traveling around to find stories and appreciate beer means that there are many samples that appear in front of me when talking about a particular beer, style, or technique. What do I do for this month? It’s a meaningless problem to most people, but I really don’t want to offend brewers or servers, and it’s going to feel weird writing at a brewery for three hours on a couple of diet cokes.

The issue of craft beverage providers needing help every January (and especially this January) is another fly in the ointment of a Dry January for me. My whole reason for being is to support Indiana craft beverage producers, sellers, and drinkers. If I take January off, I’m hurting them to a significant degree, both in reduced revenue and reduced exposure.

Walter has me on a weekly beer budget so that things don’t get out of hand. I’ve talked before about how I pay for all my beers and swag, so that no one can say that I write something nice about a brewery because they give me things or pay me. I’m sure my weekly beer budget is higher than most peoples’, so keeping that money at home for a month could really make a difference for Indiana businesses, through both food and beverage purchases. Therefore, my idea is for a deferred January – I won’t drink, but I will buy.

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s put a severe dent in our beer cellar this; aged beers were a premium. We have lots of room to add some beers from around the state that will be great for 2021-2023 holidays. Plus, nothing says I can’t buy beer in January to drink in February. My weekly beer budget can rebuild the cellar, buy beer for later this year, and provide beers that Walter and I can give away to out of state breweries when we travel. So many breweries in Indiana started or expanded package beer sales as a response to Covid restrictions that it is now possible to get beer to go at most breweries. For my purpose this month, crowlers and cans/bottles will work just fine. And during the last week, there won’t be any problem buying growlers either.

I will probably hold off buying IPAs until later in the month so that they will still be fresh when I attack them in February, plus Walter and I can stock up on T-shirts, stickers, gift cards, and glasses. We don’t usually buy much other merchandise (koozies, metal signs, hoodies, coasters, growlers – not empty ones at least), but all of these things will help a brewery in need. We frequent brewpubs often – you realize it’s OK to eat dinner without a beer, don’t you? Our Tuesday night edamame and Brussels sprouts at 20 Tap will be a bit different for a few weeks, but we’ll survive.

Supporting Indiana Craft Beverages. Here’s the point – there are so many ways you can help craft beverage producers WITHOUT drinking beer on the spot. 1) Eat food, 2) buy packaged beer, 3) book an event, 4) buy merchandise, 5) get gift cards to give as presents or use later – they all help, but there are other ways to help at the same time. 6) Wear your brewery T-shirts, 7) spread brewery stickers around where ever they are allowed, 8) talk Indiana craft beverages up to friends. Even more is possible; 9) share the social media posts of your favorite craft beverage producers and providers, 10) tag friends in your comments after you 11) like a post, 12) post amazing reviews that people will see. It’s seems small, but commenting with emojis and posting photos really do get more interest and engagement.

All of these things will make a difference to breweries, wineries, and distilleries in January (and always), but especially if you are not buying pints at the bar right now. My budget won’t change for this month, just the way I spend those dollars. And then come February, our cellar will be full, we can go back to drinking at the rail, we’ll feel good that we didn’t abandon the breweries in their time of need, and I’ll have a story that I can write – and never repeat.

Conclusion. What do I expect to learn from this experiment and how will I feel about myself and my relationship with beer after Feb. 1? No idea. I doubt that I will have any earth-shaking epiphanies or grand insights, but I am guessing that I’ll have a stocked fridge that friends and family will want to raid and a new appreciation for what the beverage producers and sellers are doing to survive.

Good luck with your January, whatever form it takes, and please remember, if we’re not there to support their business now, they won’t be there to support our hobby/lifestyle later. That includes helping out your favorite servers – tip like their welfare depends on it, because it does.

NOTE: I’ve already visited several places and have purchased Taxman, Switchyard, The Tap, and Upland beer, as well as Blind Owl gift cards.

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