FISH OUT OF WATER
And so by the time this comes to publish, I’ll be fast approaching my second month here at Loka Polly; and what a ride it’s been so far! As I write this I’m looking at our current inventory, still pinching myself that there’s nothing sitting in our cold store left to sell. The feedback has been truly humbling and everyone here has only just picked themselves up off the floor having taken a much needed lie down at people’s positive words.
That’s not to say it hasn’t been a chastening experience, on a personal level. When I agreed to join the team here, I was coming from a very comfortable (some would say TOO comfortable) bar manager job, having been the rooster with the plumiest of feathers there for just over six years. Credit where credit is due, I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in now without the place, but I felt the time was right for me to move on and take on something that would offer me a challenge again.
To say the first fortnight was exactly the challenge I envisioned would be an understatement; unsure how to present myself in a business to business situation, sending sales emails that may as well have been me shouting down an empty hallway with cans on my head, and all round just feeling my only contribution to the brewery at that point was consuming the bottomless cups of tea that were being provided; putting a considerable dent in the refreshments budget. There were occasions where I questioned my ability to sell, having been so effortlessly good at it in a bar setting, but my sanity was kept in check by Sean, who to his credit did an absolutely terrific, Oscar-worthy Kevin Costner impression, telling me “If you build it, they will come”; encouraging me to keep improving and building my patter, not allowing my confidence to drop, and effectively casting aside the first week as a trial run to see what worked and didn’t work. After all, we were only an extremely young brewery, not even having fully launched by this point.
Then something terrific happened. People began responding. Slowly at first, but building at a consistent rate. I’d cracked it (to a degree), and people were willing to take some time to listen to me talk about our wares. The biggest challenge came when Sean took a week’s snowboarding holiday to Bulgaria, leaving me on my own in the brewery. By that point my confidence was (and still is) riding the crescent of a never-ending wave though, and in many ways this became the most tremendous blessing in a fancy frock - I believe being put in a situation where I was on my own has really allowed me to cut my teeth in this new world I was dipping my toes into. I had the advantage of constant advice available through WhatsApp, but the bigger picture revolved around the fact that someone else had trusted me with their business on my shoulders, and I was determined, for lack of a better word, not to fuck it up.
In that week alone, I took it upon myself to go on an all out sales onslaught - encouraged by our showing at The Chester Beer Awards and the positive words people were giving us the previous week - and it became pretty clear by the Thursday of that week that our keg stock wouldn’t see the end of the month. Pallets left the brewery, direct and couriered deliveries were scheduled, and as a collective we were left reeling. People were REALLY enjoying our beer; it was appearing in London, Liverpool, and most incredibly, in the hands of Tiny Rebel co-founder Bradley Cummings in Cardiff, who took a second from his incredible CAMRA campaign trail to praise us for what we were producing. Cue me wetting myself like the complete and utter fanboy that I really am.
And now we come back to the present moment in time as I write this. The cold store is empty, but we have three new beers sitting in our FVs just waiting to be kegged and released to the public. We’ll be brewing keg-exclusive again the second those beers leave the brewhouse, with a round of canned beers scheduled for mid-April. It’s time now to knuckle down and not allow ourselves to get carried away. We’re still learning every day, and as incredible as our first month has been, it’s on us to ensure that consistency is our main priority. The motto here is “Never Stop Improving” and I’m confident we can carry that message forward and into the future.
It’s been a crazy first month; we’ve made some incredible new friends along the way, and now we’re barreling forward full steam into the rest of 2018.
Peace out for now,
That guy with the weird haircut