Fyne Folk – Graeme Aitken, Brewery Tap
Welcome to this week’s Fyne Folk, our blog introducing Fyne Ales team members and talking to them about their experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic. We want to introduce you to the folk who make our brewery what it is, and share their stories from lockdown, how they’ve been coping with the new normal and what their hopes are for a post-pandemic brewery and world.
Appropriately this week, we’re talking to a member of our Brewery Tap team – Graeme. Graeme has been working in our shop and bar for a little over a year now on a part-time basis, running brewery tours, pulling pints, helping visitors and mostly talking about how good Fyne Lager is (he really loves it). Graeme, like many of our team, spent quite a bit of time away from the brewery, so we caught up with him to find out the story of his summer.
We usually start at the beginning – back in March – what are your memories of when the pandemic meant the brewery had to close down.
I wasn’t hear the day the staff meeting happened, as I only work part time, so I got a phone call from [Office Manager] Elaine to let me know not to come in and to be honest, it wasn’t unexpected. I was gutted, of course, but is what it is – we had to do what was best for the team and for the wider community and keep people safe, so lockdown it was.
How did you use your time away from the brewery?
The weather was good, so I painted the house, I did the gardening and tried to get out on the bike a bit – it’s a Harley-Davidson Superlow, and to be honest I’ve probably used it less this year than any other year because of the five mile travel rules during lockdown. I was just doing wee loops of the local area and that was it, where normally I’d be up and down all over on it, so that was a bit of a shame.
I remodelled my home bar – I figured the real pubs are going to be closed for a while so I might as well make the most of my shed setup. It’s not much, but it’s a cozy wee space and with a mini-keg of Fyne Lager on the go it’s almost as good as the real thing. I mean it when I say this – Fyne Lager is the best lager I’ve ever tasted; we got through quite a few of the mini-kegs during lockdown.
So of all the folk at the brewery you probably missed the pub least?
I wouldn’t go that far – I really missed the pub. I live just outside of Glasgow and we’d normally go out quite a lot – either somewhere local or the south side, west end or city centre.
The biggest thing I missed is live music in bars – we’d normally be out to see a band once a week, but haven’t been able to this year really. I feel terrible for all those musicians working so hard to get by and they’ve had the rug pulled out from under them worse than anyone – they’ve got no chance.
And of course, no FyneFest either, which for me is more of a ‘music festival with really great beer’ than just a beer festival – and the line-up this year that we’d announced was amazing, so we’ve got to hope they’ll all come back and play for us next year.
We were able to open up again in the summer and get folk back into the glen though and you came back to work.
I came back in August – we opened the courtyard beer garden at the end of July and it was a couple of weeks before the guys were sure it was going to work, but we were lucky and there were a lot of folk who came to have a few beers and my services were needed once again.
I consider myself to have been in a really fortunate position – I work for the brewery part time because I enjoy it and it keeps me busy, but I’m not reliant on the income it provides like so many other people in hospitality who have struggled this year. Even with the support in place with the furlough scheme and everything else the government did, there are going to be a lot of pubs and bars and restaurants who simply won’t reopen – that’s it for them, and then the staff are out of a job. It’s a horrible time for the industry and the businesses that work with them like us.
Was it good to come back?
Oh aye, I missed the people – the team here is great and I love talking to the folk who come to visit us, telling them about the brewery and hearing their stories. And I like beer, and I like our beer, so it’s an easy job really.
How will you remember 2020 – what will you look back on?
Well, I don’t want to bring the mood down, but we lost both of our dogs over the summer, so it was quite a sad time. It was the toughest thing – Mia was 18, and Max was 17, both lhasa apsos, and they were the best wee dogs – so I’ll not be in a hurry to look back on 2020 at all really when you factor in everything else.
How are you feeling about this week’s new restrictions on hospitality?
I had hoped that some common sense would prevail, but it doesn’t seem like it has, does it? We’re lucky that we can keep our shop and our courtyard open and we have our online shop, but I know from speaking to the guys in the office that closing the pubs in two of our biggest areas is really going to hurt the brewery. I hope people are able to support us, come and see us and shop online, because we’re going to need it – it’s going to be a difficult few weeks.