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Let’s dive into the virtual world of beer

“Are we going to meet up for an after-work beer in the beer garden?” A suggestion that’s not so easy to say “no” to (I personally at least can only very rarely resist it). In times of coronavirus-imposed restrictions, however, beer gardens are closed as are other catering outlets, for the time being there won’t be any large convivial get-togethers. And it’s precisely in this out-of-the-ordinary time that one basic facet of our favourite drink has come more to the fore than ever: beer has always been a social beverage.

Some of you will now be wondering what leads me to believe this. Quite rightly so, because it does in fact sound funny, especially as social distancing is the watchword of the day, the world’s largest beer festival has been cancelled like so many others, the local pubs are closed, and beer tastings, craft beer festivals and any other sort of festivity have been called off – yes, it’s true: quite a few beer-drinking occasions are in fact missing; and not only the occasions but your beer-drinking companions, too. As an intern in Krones’ Social Media Department, however, I do a lot of internet surfing and while doing this came to realise: in the craft beer community, there’s nevertheless quite a lot happening at the moment, you could almost call it a virtual beer culture. And since in my view these new concepts are much too creative to be withheld from you, I will give you a small overview below.

The images that caught my eye immediately were those of the Brewdog Tap Houses. Ever since 27 March, you can find on the internet each of the brewery’s 102 bars as a virtual space – which looks exactly the same as the actual premises in reality. And what about the beer that you usually drink in your local? You can either go and fetch it from precisely there, or you can have it delivered to your home from where you can then enjoy it with a host of other beer aficionados while being entertained by a full evening’s programme comprising beer tastings, Q&As, comedy numbers and pub quizzes in the virtual tap house. Needless to say, other breweries have also come up with similar ideas, so beer tastings, parties with live DJs and even opening ceremonies are held virtually – always with options for either going and fetching the beer from the brewery in question or ordering it for home delivery.

It’s true that kegs and barrels stay closed in most brewery taverns but bottled or canned beer is nevertheless in demand, of course – I mean, let’s be honest: a life entirely without (craft) beer is completely out of the question. Some breweries, for example, also offer quite specific packages, such as a dinner-for-two package comprising a delicious meal, plus the matching beer – or even a whole choice of special beers. So thanks to the innovative concepts available there’s no shortage of options for getting the craft beer you want or trying out new beers, surely just around the corner from you as well. Just check out your favourite tavern or your local to see whether they’re offering you a beer-to-go which you can then enjoy in the best of (virtual) company! It has probably hardly ever been so simple, meaning just by drinking beer, to support small catering outlets and breweries 😉

What I find equally exciting is the new alternatives to guided tours through their premises that are usually offered by many breweries on a regular basis. Some of these have likewise been restructured and are now being offered virtually, as a live event. And quite a few breweries keep on planning further exciting innovations: for example, some of them are currently busy planning guided tours for which you can use your own car. The intention here is to enable people once again to embark on guided tours outside their own four walls, by means of display windows and a matching audio guide. Admittedly, not the guided tour we’re used to but still “for real” in a brewery.

However, there’s still an aspect missing from my small overview, one that is not entirely unimportant in the craft beer community. What’s involved here is often not only drinking beer together but also talking shop about precisely this beer or exchanging general news and views about the sector, of the kind frequently taking place during beer fairs, for instance. Here, too, I found some virtual counterparts. To give you an example: the Craft Brewers Conference that this year should have been held in San Antonio is organised in the form of online seminars on the craft beer industry. In the live seminars, in particular, there should in fact be enough room for an informed exchange of news and views. What’s more, the first online craft beer festival will kick off next week. Replacing the fifth Stuttgart Craft Beer Festival, it will comprise tastings of a total of 54 beer types in the presence of 18 breweries, seminars will provide a platform for discussion, and the event will be concluded by virtual mug-clinking in a virtual after-show party. So this goes to show that a certain fair and festival atmosphere can also be experienced on the internet.

To tell the truth, we’ve always known that the craft beer community is a very creative one – also and especially with a view to the numerous and multi-facetted flavour combinations. But that action in response to a crisis has been taken so fast, previous models restructured and new things developed, so as to keep on communicating with the customers, that is in my view highly admirable and shows one thing above all: beer simply tastes best in company, and happily we can still have this even in these out-of-the-ordinary times!

What about things your end then? Have you taken part in one of the virtual events as yet? And how did you like it? Please feel free to let us know your experiences in the comments! I for my part can hardly wait to see what else the virtual beer culture has to offer. And there’s one suggestion I’d like to make: what about – just for the feeling – a Cheers emoji installed in the online video service that simultaneously imitates the sound of clinking mugs?

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