The Year in Beer: TapRm Looks Back on 2020
We know, we know, who wants to look back on 2020?! Were there even any good parts, anything we’d actually want to remember? We’d like to make the case that yes, some things about this year were pretty cool, even if we’re itching to dig into the hopefully all-around better year that is 2021.
TapRm was excited to grow in 2020, and to see so many breweries we love do the same--getting to be involved in any aspect of that growth was a highlight to hold onto even when this year was looking anything but bright. We were constantly inspired by the creativity, innovation, generosity, and community spirit of these breweries. Along the way, we also picked up a few new tricks for enjoying beer at home, from pairings to baking to cocktails. So, here are our favorite moments and things we learned from this year, the things we’ll look back on fondly even when we want to forget the rest of 2020.
Community is as essential as malt, hops, yeast, and water when it comes to craft beer. This is an industry built on gathering, on socializing, on sharing, on supporting each other. In addition to a host of other things Covid-19 has interrupted, it at least temporarily slammed the brakes on the heart-warming unity that hums along in taprooms. We already knew brewers are inspiringly creative, like artists painting on an SRM color wheel. But this year showed us just how much that creativity applies to other parts of the craft beer world. Breweries found ways to maintain and even grow their connections to their communities through novel virtual events. From yoga to lectures to design contests, breweries proved there is truly nothing that can keep the beer family apart.
For better or worse, one of the many things 2020 will forever be known as is “the year of sourdough.” Suddenly confined to our homes to varying degrees, everyone from seasoned bakers to those of us who have never even sliced a ready-to-bake roll of cookie dough took to the kitchen for baking experiments. Beer lovers had the edge: beer bread is a lot faster and easier than sourdough or, really, any other kind of bread, and it’s delicious, as some of us learned for the first time. As we had even more time to discover more of our favorite beers and more of our favorite bakes, we learned all kinds of recipes where the two worlds collided to glorious results. As it turns out, beer makes for better pizza, better pretzels, better brownies, and better doughnuts. These are recipes we’ll be turning to even when our own kitchens aren’t the only option.
Not to be a broken record, but 2020 brought a lot of changes to all of our lives and routines--duh, we know. Our up-ended schedules and lifestyles had many of us re-evaluating how we stayed fit and healthy and how we enjoyed ourselves and kicked back. We did a little research into all the reasons why low and no-alcohol beers, as well as low-ABV hard seltzers and teas, can be a great finish to our fitness regimens. While anything higher in alcohol is a deal-breaker, there are some factors in beer that make lower-booze options a game-changer.
We all like snacks and we all like beer, and for many of us, this year probably called for more of both, or at least really savoring both more. The magical thing is, snacks and beer really elevate each other. We’re not talking any old snack with any old beer, either--although, that’s already pretty great, to be honest. But we found out it’s so easy to keep a few principles of beer-and-food pairing in mind to create expert combinations in your own kitchen. Whether you’re satisfying a sweet tooth or salty cravings, you can find the perfect beer to make yourself feel like you’re in a fancy restaurant or beer bar.
In June, we caught up with Jon Moore and Jason Pazmino about Gay Beer. The two started their beer brand to really recognize and speak to the LGBTQ+ community. Their golden lager is a delicious, refreshing, easy-drinking delight that pairs with any dish, any day, and any season, and their entire brand is one that fosters community and inclusion, while dedicating time and energy to raising money and awareness for important causes.
The founders of WESAKE taught us that sake is infinitely more versatile than a drink reserved for dining out on sushi simply by introducing their canned sake. It’s light, refreshing, and of course, portable, ready to go anywhere from beaches to socially distanced barbecues to sunset dinners in the park. Then, WESAKE went even further and taught us even more about sake, from its origins to its appeal for health-conscious imbibing.
From hop-bomb IPAs to complex Belgian-style tripels, we already knew Virginia’s Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery is a hotspot of creativity and technique mastery--in other words, darn tasty beer. But in July, CEO and co-founder Lisa Pumphrey filled us in on the many initiatives that round out LCCB’s presence in the beer world and beyond on an overall mission of sustainability and outreach. From how Pumphrey helped grow farm breweries in Virginia to LCCB’s extensive community work in Jamaica to the brewery’s tireless dedication to clean water, beer is being brewed alongside sustainability innovation in Goochland County, Virginia.
Similar to baking with beer, this year’s extra time at home and quest for new and fresh ideas led us to more experimentation with beer mixology. We learned there are times for amazing beers on their own, and there are times to turn our drink into a bit of an activity, learning what those amazing beers can bring to different spirits and mixers in terms of aroma, flavor, and mouthfeel. What we ended up with is a whole other way to enjoy our favorite brews. We developed a greatest hits list for the summer and for cooler months, and to be honest, we’re not done brainstorming.
In August, we met the three founders of one of craft beer’s most exciting breweries. Maíra Kimura, Yumi Shimada, and Fernanda Ueno lead the charge on Japas Cervejaria, a celebration of their mixed Brazilian and Japanese heritage. Building on a foundation of their beer expertise and boundless creativity, the three fuse Brazilian accents and Japanese elements into their brews. Through beer styles everyone knows and loves, they effortlessly and joyfully educate drinkers on Japanese cuisine. The result is a beer lineup any imbiber is excited to explore.
In another extension of craft beer’s two core elements of community and creativity, 2020 saw breweries going above and beyond the already unimaginable challenge of simply staying afloat amidst a global pandemic to raise money and awareness for different causes. The All Together collaboration saw hundreds of breweries drumming up proceeds for their local hospitality workers; the Black is Beautiful collaboration had over 1,100 breweries supporting this year’s renewed call for racial justice and equity through proceeds and visible alliances. TapRm has been proud to sell several different Black is Beautiful beers and the feels don’t stop there: we are happy to host other breweries on our platform who brew for meaningful causes.
A little less than three months after bars and restaurants in New York City were allowed to welcome back customers for outdoor seating, we caught up with two of our favorite beer bars, BierWax and Someday Bar. BierWax’s Chris Maestro and Someday Bar’s Megan Rickerson got candid about the immense challenges of juggling relentlessly changing government restrictions with no clear government communication, support, or assistance. Customers can help, though, in ways beyond buying a beer or two. If you love your local spots and want them to survive, this is required reading.
We found out just how fun cocktails can be with hard seltzer as a key element when we started experimenting with Fountain’s light, refreshing, delicious lineup. Everything from palomas to dark & stormy’s were reinvented, and felt elevated yet were so easy to make. The possibilities are pretty endless, especially when you consider even more hard seltzer brands available on TapRm.
We were so excited to welcome The Virginia Beer Company onto TapRm, and really examining their portfolio of brews, we had to know: how did this brewery come up with so many unique beers? VBC’s repertoire consists of beloved styles reimagined with creative twists. Brewmaster Jonathan Newman pulled back the curtain on VBC’s “brewery-within-a-brewery” concept to reveal how the team continues to innovate.
Another thrilling TapRm arrival this fall was Jackalope Brewing Company. Some beer fans may well know Jackalope as one of the OG breweries in Nashville, opening back in 2011 when the music city’s craft beer scene was just a bb. CEO and co-founder Bailey Spaulding filled us in on a history that may seem short only being nine years, but is actually a jam-packed timeline when you consider the relative youth of the modern craft beer world. Somehow, Jackalope has managed to help its hometown expand its craft beer community while growing, itself, and brewing consistently amazing beer.
Despite too-cool-for-school groans that the hipsters have invaded and, more seriously, even in the face of all of 2020’s obstacles, Williamsburg remains one of the all-time best neighborhoods for, among other fun things, stellar craft beer. This year proved nothing can rain on the parade of classic dives, beautiful pubs, arcade bars, bottle shops, and breweries, all offering a great time even if it’s outdoors for now, as well as the good stuff: lovingly made and beautifully executed brews. So, we made a little guide for anyone who wants to explore that scene.
Extensive food expertise and experience, limitless creativity, West African and Caribbean influences--it all goes into the brew at Montclair Brewery. We loved getting to know co-owner Denise Ford Sawadogo, who told us all about how she and husband Leo create the beers that have gotten New Jersey--and now New York--buzzing, as well as some other gems like the stories behind Montclair beers’ unique names.
Speaking of a culinary approach, we were fascinated by the fine-dining twists and pairing-focused turns of Moody Tongue Brewing Company in Chicago, so much so that we asked brewmaster and president Jared Rouben all the things. We learned the difference it makes when a brewery thinks so much about food flavors and pairings, and Jared even shared some helpful tips for making our own beer-and-food pairings at home.
In the final quarter of this year, we got to open TapRm up to YOU. We’re working every day to open up access to craft beer, so that beer drinkers can get the brews they’ve been searching for and so that breweries can reach wider audiences. It’s a win-win. We know that you’re as pumped about this as we are, and now you get to invest in that mission. We couldn’t be happier to have you.
So, that was a cool thing about this year, but: bye, 2020, don’t let the door hitcha’ on your way out. Hello, 2021, we can’t wait to spend it even further building out this community of TapRm investors, consumers, and fellow beer fans. Cheers!