One of the most heartwarming aspects of this frequently rather shit period we're living through has been the lengths to which people are going in order to maintain contact with each other. Sure, we're barely allowed to see our mates let alone give them a hug, but we're finding ways to at least try to stay in touch and make sure we're all coping as well as can be.
Beyond the Zoom chats, socially distanced walks in the park and gifts left on doorsteps, there have been those encouraging people to carry out acts of kindness for others. We've already written about the #dontdrinkalone campaign and Good Beer Co's "A Good Beer Always Helps", which at time of writing has already seen close to 1,200 four-packs donated to essential workers – with a new target of 10,000 by June. And there are also beer businesses offering a means for beer lovers to shout beers for – then share them with – their mates.
Craft Beer Coopery, the NSW-based online retailer whose entire business model is based around encouraging mates to share beers and check on their mental wellbeing, have created isoMATE Conversation Crates (pictured above). And, inspired by their past work with Movember, Stomping Ground have launched "Share 8 with a M8" in time for May 8, whereby you can buy eight beers and they'll send half to you and half to a mate of your choosing, complete with a personalised message.
Trevor Lowder, the founder of Craft Beer Coopery, said he decided to create the new offering over concerns some people might be turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms – including excessive drinking at home – during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"While wanting to support the craft beer industry, but not promote volume sales – which can often lead to volume drinking, I started thinking about what I could put together for a time when mates are not together and the isoMATE idea was born," he says. "Even while we're apart, there's still no craftier way to start a conversation than over a cold craft beer."
The isoMATE package features two boxes each containing the same beers, beer snacks, tasting notes, and Man Anchor #letstalk beer coasters with tips on how to start conversations about mental health. They're being delivered contact-free to people's doorsteps, with free delivery for the second box (the one you're gifting a mate).
For Trevor, the partnership with Man Anchor is central to the packs as he launched Craft Beer Coopery after overcoming PTSD and depression following his brother's death 24 years ago. And he's aware the unprecedented stresses and strangeness of the current climate will be taking its toll on many people.
"While some of us are likely closer to the brink than others, I’d be as bold as to say that we almost wouldn’t be human if the effects of COVID-19 haven’t had some impact on our mental wellbeing," he says. "It comes as many are still feeling the impact of recent bushfires, floods and drought. All rolled up, it’s more important than ever that we promote a sense of community, reach out and talk to our friends and family – to have an open, honest and positive conversation about mental health."
He says even after physical isolation is improved, the psychological impacts from the virus and the economic downturn will continue, not least because there will be tens of thousands of people who find themselves out of work.
"The old adage is still true," he says, "a problem shared is a problem halved. It’s also important to remember that on the outside a mate may appear to still have it all together, however the pressures of life right now can affect anyone."
Ahead of May 8, Stomping Ground are looking to connect people too. In a similar manner to Moon Dog's May 8 MAAAATE! Day venture that this year will see them deliver 200 six-packs of their Old Mate pale to 100 sets of mates around Melbourne, the Collingwood-based brewing company is enabling people to split eight cans of Laneway Lager with a friend and send a message too.
"The seeds of the idea came about because of our work with Movember," brewing company co-owner Steve Jeffares says. "They talked to us about working with them and an online on demand beer delivery company on something around May 8."
With Movember now working on projects with the Federal Government, any association between mental health and alcohol "had to go" so they decided to take the idea on themselves, one from which they're making a $1 donation from every eight-pack sold to Beyond Blue.
"We did some work with Come From Away [the theatre show in which Steve's wife Kel had a lead role] around random acts of kindness," he says. "And this is like a random act of kindness.
"There's been hundreds of people ordering them already and it's been really touching to see the messages that they've sent. [The idea] is people make a connection, whether that's a phone call or over the fence."
As we continue into an uncertain future, such connections will prove ever more important.
Says Trevor: "If folks do have someone reach out to, my advice is, ‘Don’t panic!' Simply let them know that you are there to support them and be by their side."
You can order isoMATE packs from the Craft Beer Coopery website. To send some Laneway Lager and a message to a mate for May 8, you need to order before Monday (May 4) as that's when beers are being packed and sent. To put yourself down for a Moon Dog Old Mate six-pack, head here.
As part of the #keepinglocalalive campaign we're running Postcards from the Edge stories, 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 online – get in touch.
For more information or support surrounding mental health issues, you can contact:
- Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36
- Lifeline on 13 11 14