Fyne Folk – Yvonne Wernlein, Technical Brewer
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. 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.
Below you’ll find a Q&A with Yvonne Wernlein, our technical brewery and head of our quality control at the brewery. Yvonne relocated to Argyll a couple of years ago to work in the brewery, quickly becoming an integral part of our production team, leading the effort to ensure that all our beers are the absolute best they can possibly be. Yvonne’s positive experiences of using her furlough time productively make for interesting reading, as well as seeing how she’s transitioned back to the brewing world.
As someone who only recently came back to work, you had a lot of time at home in the Spring and early Summer – how was life on furlough?
It was a bit strange in the beginning, I had to kind of get used to having so much free time and it took me a couple of weeks to adjust to being at home so much. I think after that it became clear that this wasn’t a short-term thing and I put some effort into changing the way I thought about it and trying to establish new routines – I forced myself to get comfortable with it, and I think that really helped see it as an opportunity more than a restriction.
We obviously had to stay within the five miles guidance, but there’s a lot you can do within five miles in Argyll, so I started to enjoy it a few weeks in.
So how did you fill your time?
I finally established a proper yoga routine – it’s something I’ve been practising for years and years but never regularly or with any real discipline. It’s so good for the body and good for the mind – the time at home showed me that it’s something that I really need in my daily life and it’s important to make time for it.
I started an online teacher training course, not because I intend to start teaching at any point, but it’s interesting and something I wanted to learn more about. We did a lot of walking in the hills and forests around where we live, and dusted off the mountain bike for some ride.
And like everyone else, I started baking bread – haha!
Honestly, we were so busy that the time passed really quickly – there would be days where I’d been doing things all day and look at what I wanted to do and realised I hadn’t managed to fit everything in. I think it’s a bit like when people retire and they find themselves busier than ever – it went so quickly.
How has coming back to the brewery been?
I started back in July, part-time for a few days a week, and I think that was for the best as it’s helped me switch back into working mode – I just needed to get the grey cells moving again, working through tasks and thinking about beer, really.
See the team again has been was really good – in lockdown it’s such a small group of people that you see and interact with, so being around different people with different perspectives and stories and stupid jokes is a lovely change of pace.
What have you been drinking during the pandemic?
I think like most people I drank quite a bit during lockdown – not like getting stupidly drunk every now and then, but more casual drinking, beers with dinner. We worked through quite a lot of the beers we had stashed away from various trips, and did a few online orders, as well as getting some mini-kegs of Fyne Lager in from the brewery.
When we ordered online we tried to mix it up – buy lots of different things to try, but all from independent breweries who need support. It was nice to change things up and spend a bit more time appreciating different beers.
What was the worst part of the lockdown for you?
My parents were due to visit from Germany in the spring, and obviously that was cancelled – I still haven’t seen them since Christmas, which is the longest I’ve gone without seeing them in a long time, but they will hopefully be coming over soon.
On the one hand, not being able to socialise freely, just pop down to the pub or message someone to meet for a drink was annoying, I definitely missed being spontaneous with socialising, but on the other hand it has made seeing people more special because you have to make choices and follow the guidelines and get organised. You appreciate it more when you do get to meet up with people now.
And how are you feeling as we’re heading out of lockdown and guidelines are starting to be relaxed?
It’s difficult, because on the one hand I want to go out and support the bars and restaurants that need it right now, but I’m also cautious because it won’t take much for things to start to turn bad again. I know most venues will be following the rules – it’s in everyone’s interest that pubs can stay open – but when you see local lockdowns being put in place you can’t help but worry a little.
I think for me it’s just a bit of extra work in making sure that wherever we do go out for food or drinks, making sure they’re doing it right and following the guidelines – it’s the only way to keep everyone safe.
Looking ahead, what are your hopes and fears for the ‘new normal’?
In terms of beer, I hope there are some people out there who have used the pandemic to try and broaden their horizons, and instead of buying lots of cheap industrial beer, they’ve maybe spent a bit more to get something a bit better from smaller, independent brewers where the money doesn’t just go into some executive’s pockets but actually helps real people and helps keep the business going.
I know we had lots of new customers to our online shop and that can’t just be people who would normally buy our beer in the pubs, there must be some folk who were trying our beer for the first time by ordering online – I hope they stick around and continue to support us, and other independent breweries, as things start to shift back to some kind of normal.
And maybe that’s not just beer actually – there are so many small independent and local businesses run by real people who need support to survive as we come out of the pandemic, so I hope people keep doing so rather than throwing money at supermarkets or Amazon.