Postcards from the Edge No.3: Quarantinnied

"I've just done six months' work in a day," Ben Carwyn says at the end of a breathless call.

It's a statement that seems to summarise much of what's happening around the local beer world, as businesses and their staff muster every ounce of energy and invention as they work out how to get through the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the case (or should that be 2,500 cases) of his business, Carwyn Cellars, the result is the launch of a pandemic special Canvent edition. In just two-and-half-days from deciding to go ahead with the plan, they've lined up 24 beers – a mixture of unreleased and trophy-winners – from Victorian brewers which they plan to have winging their way to beer lovers across the country so they will be able to share the same beers – remotely – with their fellow travellers in a few weeks.

The Stay Home Quarantinnies Craft Beer Companion Boxes were announced earlier this afternoon and, by time of writing, such has been the interest they're already considering a second edition.

"The idea had been floating around in my head for about a week," say Ben Duval, the other Carwyn Ben, of the concept. "I spoke to Cassie [O'Neill] at Stomping Ground and she was talking about a beer they had destined for kegs they were now thinking of canning. She asked if we'd thought about a Canvent box and I said, 'Sort of'.

"I got in touch with some brewers, found others in the same situation, and thought, 'Let's do this bloody thing!'."

For their annual Canvent – for which they line up exclusive new beers for punters to open in the lead up to Christmas, the planning process lasts months. Here, the eagerness of so many breweries to get involved and keep beer moving made it far, far quicker.

"They were willing to move heaven and earth to make it happen," Ben says. "Hop Nation had a beer in tank that's a collaboration with Bar Liberty but now the venue is shut they can put all of it tank into the project. And we've got two beers that were going to be launched at the [now postponed] Carwyn Collaborational."

 

Ben Duval of Carwyn Cellars: "Let's bloody do this thing!"

 

A few days ago, when The Crafty Pint team was bouncing around ideas and trying to come up with fun new concepts for beer lovers during the coming weeks and months, an online beer festival was proposed. I'll admit I shot it down: "There's no way we're going to find anyone able to coordinate 24 brewers' beers for a mixed case in the current circumstances."

Happily proven wrong, the plan now is to interview participating brewers for the Beer Together live stream YouTube series that launched last night and is evolving fast (there's already talk of a quiz show, for example...). It means anyone with a pack will be able to enjoy a beer while watching the brewer talk about it and, no doubt, their life in the time of COVID.

"We thought it was going to be a lot harder," Ben says. "We started to make phone calls yesterday and by the time we went home we not only had 24 breweries but 24 beers."

He admits this version of Canvent is "a little more slapped together" – no custom box, for example, given the rapid turnaround. But, he says: "It's still going to be really good, just not set up in quite the same way. There will be a suggested tasting sheet but it's up to the customer how they drink them."

Given their multifaceted setup and an online offering that was already popular before the shutdown, Carwyn Cellars hasn't been as heavily impacted as many others, even though their bar is shut and they had to postpone their biggest ever festival just weeks out from the event. Yet they're aware of the reality for most of their peers and friends in the beer world.

"It's hard," Ben says. "I feel like we're in a pretty lucky spot as there's so many hard luck stories. There's so many people out of work and people having to lay staff off. It's pretty nasty.

"Hopefully, this thing can bring a bit of positivity."


Quarantinnies pre-sales open at midday AEDT via Carwyn Cellars' online store. Orders will go out on April 9.

We've been lucky enough to secure some cases to give away, too, with two up for grabs for Crafty Cabal members and one on offer to readers of our weekly newsletter so, if you receive it, make sure you open it this Friday!

As part of the #keepinglocalalive campaign we hope to run a Postcards from the Edge story every day, highlighting the ways in which people are adapting to survive. If you've got a story you think is suitable – or have something to add to the campaign resources – drop us a line.

Photo at top features Bens Duval (left) and Carwyn.

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