Fyne Folk – Tom Hunter, Sales Coordinator
Welcome to our second Fyne Folk blog, introducing our team members and talking to them about their experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic. As we welcome more of our team back in the glen, we want to share their stories from lockdown, how they’ve been coping and what their hopes are for a post-pandemic brewery and world.
Today we’re chatting to Tom Hunter, pictured here with his dog, Woody. Tom has been part of the Fyne Ales team for a few years now, brought in to help tie together and support the sales team from Glen Fyne, before taking on additional responsibilities of leading sales in the west of Scotland. Read on to find out what Tom’s been up to over the last sixteen weeks!
How has your experience during the pandemic been in general?
When you look back on the last few months, I think things could have been a lot worse. At the start of the pandemic, I think I, like a lot of other people, were very worried about what it would all mean and how much danger we were in – it’s something no one had ever experienced before.
Over time, it feels like we’ve learned how to take precautions to stay healthy, and adapted and settled into new routines and ways of doing things and figured out how to live in these strange times.
And I know that things could have been a lot worse for the brewery without the support we’ve had through the online shop, so thank you to anyone who has ordered from us.
You were furloughed shortly after the lockdown announcement, how has it been away from the brewery?
The majority of my job is to help sell our beer to pubs and bars and without pubs and bars to sell beer to, there wasn’t a huge amount I could do for the brewery, so yeah, that’s exactly why the furlough scheme was introduced and it made sense for me to step away for a little while.
At first it was very strange – I love my job, and even when I’m not at work, I’m be thinking about what needs doing at the brewery and it was hard to get out of that headspace when I wasn’t going to work every day. There was also quite a lot of stress around what the pandemic was going to mean for Fyne Ales and the beer industry in the long term – I think we knew it was going to have a major impact, but we didn’t know how long the effects would last and what it would mean for our team, or for our customers.
How has the response been from West of Scotland trade customers?
I think Argyll has been hit very hard, it’s an area so reliant on tourism and the lockdown rules came in just at the start of the busiest time of the year for pubs, bars, restaurants and hotels. Losing three and a half months of the most profitable trading period of the year is going to hurt any business, so it’s been a stressful time for our Argyll customers. Saying that, since I’ve come back to work and started talking to managers and owners again, there seems to be a feeling of optimism and belief that they will get through the challenging times we’re in and we’re doing everything we can as a brewery to support them as lockdown rules are relaxed.
It’s been good to see some customers, particularly in Glasgow, adapting their business models, offering takeaway beers and engaging more with their local community – everyone’s been doing what they can to survive, and if a side effect of lockdown is figuring out new ways of doing things and pulling together as communities, then it’s not all bad.
So how have you been using your time away from the brewery?
It’s been alright – I moved into a fairly small flat in Glasgow with my partner just before lockdown rules came in, and while I think we knew we’d be spending more time together when we lived together, I don’t think either of us anticipated it’d be 24/7 for three months! We’re doing okay though, it’s been really nice to have time together.
At the start of lockdown I threw myself into improving my fitness – with the gym closed I had to change my routines and got a bit over-enthusiastic and sustained quite a bad knee injury a few weeks in, which was very annoying. I’ve been trying to relearn some Spanish, which I haven’t practiced for nearly ten years, and I’ve been trying to read a lot more. My partner is a big reader and when we moved in together she brought all her books so I’ve had plenty to get through. I think I’m on my thirteenth book since March, and some were really big, so that’s pretty good going – I want Fyne Ales blog readers to know how well read I am now – haha!
And what have you been eating and drinking?
I think lockdown made us appreciate our local independent shops a lot more – we’ve been trying to get as much food as possible from greengrocers, delis and fishmongers near our flat more than the supermarket.
Similarly, I’ve been trying to spread the love around Glasgow independent bottle shops who have supported Fyne Ales, picking up beers from Valhalla’s Goat, Good Spirits Co and Grunting Growler – mostly good, classic German lagers when the weather’s been good.
I’ve had quite a few of our mini-casks from the online shop – I love cask beer and it’s genuinely the next best thing to a pint of cask in the pub.
What have you missed most during the pandemic?
I miss playing football, and watching football especially with the early end of the Scottish football season, though I’m a Hearts fan so I don’t miss watching them lose. I should say, even though we were rubbish, we didn’t deserve to be expelled from the league, so I’m hopeful our appeals will yield some sort of compensation for the club.
I’m lucky to live close enough to my parents to have seen them a few times in the garden, but my brother and gran are both based in Edinburgh so it’s been tough not seeing them; with the rules relaxing now we’ll hopefully get over that way soon.
I definitely missed going to the pub – I don’t think I’m alone in that – haha!
So will you be going to the pub when they reopen next week?
I think I will – not a mad session or anything, but maybe a quiet pint or two of cask somewhere local.
I know pubs are working hard to put the right measures in place to keep customers and their teams safe, I trust them, and they need our support now more than ever, so I’ll be heading out sometime next week to find some Jarl.