Many people will start their 2020 health kick with a ‘Dry January’.
They will give up the booze for a month in a bid to lose some weight and save some cash after the excesses of the festive season. People often do it for charity.
But on the flip side of the coin, what happens to your favourite local pub or brewer when you decide to withdraw your custom for 31 days? In short, they struggle in what is an already tough trade.
A counter campaign called Tryanuary is encouraging people to fraternise in pubs in January in a bid to support the drinks industry in what can be a very challenging month.
The not-for-profit national initiative was founded in 2015 by beer blogger Andy Heggs. The one-man campaign has now mushroomed to nearly 100 volunteers, particularly under the stewardship of craft beer enthusiast Tom Stapley and his Tryanuary successor Mike Hampshire.
National coordinator Mike Hampshire, who has been involved for three years, said: “It was becoming apparent that the beer industry struggles in January. After a month of over-indulging and enjoying the festive season people come into the New Year making resolutions about going to the gym, having a healthier lifestyle and eating well.
“One of the first things that people look at stopping is their alcohol consumption. Pubs drop customer numbers and by proxy of that breweries are seeing less beer sales.”
Combine this with high beer duty and the customer’s expectation of low beer prices then it makes for a really challenging environment for small independent traders.
Mike knows the beer scene inside out. He has first-hand experience of the pub trade as the landlord of the Rose & Crown in Bradford and he also runs pub tours and beer events.
He said there were several key messages for this year’s Tryanuary: inclusivity, community focus and lifestyle choices.
The 37-year-old wants people to see the pub as a community venue rather than just as a place which sells alcohol. He added: “One of the things we are focussing on more this year is having alcohol as part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle. We feel Tryanuary can be completely inclusive.
“We are not talking about going out to the pub and necking ten pints every night and keeping the industry running.
“This is much more about helping the beer industry in a difficult period, using pubs as the community spaces they are intended to be.
“Quite often people associate pubs with alcohol. Largely, pubs are community spaces. So you can go in there and socialise with your friends and family, have a meal, drink a soft drink, read a book and do work.
“We want people to realise that just because you are abstaining from alcohol it doesn’t mean you have to abstain from the pub. I think sometimes people forget that ‘pub’ is short for ‘public house.”
And people doing a Dry January can still take part in Tryanuary without breaking their healthy resolutions thanks to the rise in no or low alcohol beers.
Some beers are have zero alcohol like St Peter’s ‘Without’ whereas others like Adnams’ ‘Ghost Ship’, BrewDog’s ‘Nanny State’, Erdinger’s ‘Alkoholfrei’ and Big Drop’s ‘To Drink, Not to be drunk’ range just have a trace of alcohol at 0.5 per cent ABV.
Mike added: “If you are doing Dry January, please still use the pub. Go and taste some of these fantastic non-alcoholic beers that have been produced by breweries in the UK. I think we have come a long way since the days of Kaliber to alcohol-free beers that don’t taste too dissimilar to their alcoholic equivalents.”
The Tryanuary initiative is run by a team of about 90 volunteers, who are critical to its success. They are organised along national, regional and local lines by people who are passionate about the brewing industry and want to see it thrive.
It is funded through sponsorship. This year the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has signed up as a partner for the first time. But Mike stressed that no money is made by Tryanuary. Any surplus left over after running costs goes to drinks industry charity The Benevolent.
The Tryanuary campaign is backed with a calendar of events across the country - ranging from a women-only brewery tour in Glasgow, a bottle swap in Gosport, Hampshire, a winter beer festival in Worksop and a meet the brewer event in Coventry.
As well as being the national figurehead, Mike is also the regional coordinator for Yorkshire and the Humber. With that hat on, he is a arranging a vegan friendly beer festival in Leeds over the weekend of January 18 and 19. The event at The Wardrobe ties in with a vegan street food fair there and with Tryanuary’s inclusivity aims.
Some beers have ingredients that are a complete no-no for vegans, like lactose and finings agent isinglass because of their links to dairy and fish, respectively.
So Mike has sourced ale from six Northern breweries known for their vegan friendly beers. There will be beers from Leeds based breweries Anthology and Nomadic, Bad Seed and Brass Castle, both of Malton, Neptune from Liverpool, and Triple Point from Sheffield. He hopes people across Britain will embrace Tryanuary and concluded by saying: “Really, just be supportive of the industry that looked after you at Christmas and New Year.”
For more information see www.tryanuary.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to volunteer.