It is the 31st of December, as 2020 draws to a close and sitting in the forefront of my memory of the past year is not the obvious, but instead how crazy December has been. As I spoke about in my previous post, I made the decision to throw away the first batch of Wai-iti Single Hop Session IPA because it was substandard. This meant that the Christmas Gift boxes were pre-order only and they were put together once all the beers were ready which was from the 11th of December. Christmas 2020 was the first Christmas where we had a range of beers and therefore could offer these gift boxes. This meant that it was unchartered territory, equating to lots of mistakes to be made and lessons to be learnt. The delay to the Session IPA was far from desirable on top of all of this.
The most important lesson learnt was – preparation, preparation, preparation.
At this moment in time, I would like to remind you of our current scale. Another beer is me (the only official full-time employee) and my wife (the only official full-time volunteer). We try our best to compete with the big boys, at the same time as making everything as cost effective as possible. This means that the process of getting our beer into cans is time consuming. I just wrote out the full process, from start to finish and have subsequently deleted it as it is bringing back memories of exhausted hours spent in the brewery as well countless trips back and forth between our home, the brewery and our storage unit to collect empty cans, full kegs, empty storage boxes for unlabelled cans, full storage boxes of unlabelled cans, labels, flattened empty gift boxes, full gift boxes, and so on. I need a beer and a lie down.
In total to produce 30 Christmas Boxes it takes a total of 53 man hours (ridiculous!!) This is because everything is manual. The beer takes 12 hours to be cooled to the correct temperature for canning. At which point we manually fill the cans, before manually labelling the cans. We are trying to be environmentally friendly whilst also keeping an eye on the pennies and so reusing our boxes previously purchased for our smaller cans, which we manually repurpose for the larger can gift boxes. Once completed we then hand deliver all the local boxes, and then cart the national boxes to the post office.
As you can probably see, this would all be made a lot easier with a bit of preparation. Something that, for the most part, I did not have. Because of the tests that the beer had to undergo it meant that we were not 100% decided on going ahead with the gift boxes until the very start of December. Which meant a mad rush to secure Christmas orders. The Passion Fruit Sour and American Pale Ale were canned and labelled as much as possible once we had the green light, in an attempt at preparation but due to the Session IPA being recalled, we had no time to build up stock of the completed gift boxes prior to taking orders. On top of this I completely misjudged the time it would take to refabricate each box for it’s new purpose. Constantly putting the job off until it was almost too late.
The large majority of our Christmas Gift box orders were corporate gifts for either staff or clients of various companies based in York. This added an additional time constraint, as companies wanted to deliver the beer to the recipients before they packed up their stuff and left the office for the festive period. All in all, it was 14 day period where it was fairly non-stop. Thank god my wife likes beer as I can’t recall a single sentence muttered by yours truly that didn’t involve the b-word.
Next Christmas = among other things, pre-package as many gift boxes as possible in November in order to deliver them as soon as the orders come in.
I fear that the above reads as if I am moaning. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am so proud of what we achieved in terms of the practical sense of what we made as well as all the sales we managed to secure. Still being very unknown and with a last minute dash to secure orders, it bodes well for next year as well as next Christmas. We are still at such an early stage of the business that any little step forward feels like a giant leap and this Christmas just gone feels like a leap of seismic proportions.
Looking forward to catching up with you in the new year, but for now I’m going to kick back with a beer and end 2020 in a drunken tier 3 haze!!