2023 in Review

The last time we did a proper “year in review” post was back in 2019. At that time, we were looking to plan better ahead and mature more as an organisation. A few months later COVID had hit and everything had turned upside down. It is hard to compare our company then to our company now. COVID was a big wake up call and ended up changing a lot about our business model, as well as how we approached the future.2023 felt like our first totally clean “post-COVID” year. That’s not to say there were no residual consequences. COVID changed many elements of people’s perspective, including how people work, and how people spend their free time. We are now used to a new kind of “normal”. It’s true that people are back out again. Our sales to bars and restaurants are pretty much back to pre-COVID levels - something we weren’t sure would ever happen. But lots of people have scaled back the number of nights they go out. Bars and restaurants that pre-COVID were open until the early hours are opening earlier, and closing earlier. This is partly because the people running these establishments realised they preferred to not go home when the sun was rising, but also because the customers are also changing their habits and going out earlier, to come home earlier. These changes have only served to reinforce our choices to focus more locally, as well as to, while continuing to value the establishments who got us to where we are, put effort into allowing people to enjoy our beers where they want, when they want, and on their own terms.

Yes, COVID has been a seismic shift for everyone, including KBC, and will go down as something that expedited societal changes, if not set society on a new path in some ways. For us, however, we can’t pretend that we didn’t have another seismic shift in the decision of Chris, our head brewer and co-founder, to move on. While he made this choice and let Paul and I know back in 2022, a lot of 2023 came down to preparing ourselves for this shift, preparing in terms of making sure our brew team and our beers can continue and uphold the high standards that Chris set, and preparing emotionally for no longer coming in to work with our friend and co-founder.Just as COVID posed an immense challenge for so many, including us, we have this year been faced with another immense challenge. While a lot of the impact and changes will come in 2024 (which we plan to discuss in a later post, along with the initiatives we are excited about for next year), many of them are already underway.Not least, this major shift has forced Paul and I to sit down together and review once again what we are trying to achieve with KBC, and make sure once more that we are aligned on where this ship needs to go, and the course it must set on to get there. What it has also done has made people within the company, and especially the brew team, take on more challenges, and learn the parts of the job that Chris had handled almost single-handedly up to this point. How this challenge has been taken on, and the fearlessness shown, has been inspiring to us. Not once have we been asked “what the company will do”, but rather everyone has been proactive about taking the opportunity to learn and grow. While Chris had always encouraged ideas for beer recipes and improvements, it has been exciting to see them stepping up more and more to handle brews from conception to completion, and always eliciting ideas to make things better from one another.

We have nothing but appreciation for the way people have been this year, and it has only reinforced our confidence in those within our company to weather any storm. We have also been immensely appreciative of the words of encouragement from those in the industry and beer fans alike. As well as providing support, it has reminded us once more how wonderful the industry that we work in is, and how lucky we are to be doing what we are doing in the country and the city that we love. - Ben