“It has taught me that our customer base is a community in and of itself, and that we all feel connected to each other by more than just beer. I think that’s why many of them have made a point to support us by buying our beer when they can, and I’m incredibly grateful for that, and humbled by it.”
In 1994, just as the craft brewing scene was gathering steam in Colorado, newly married Mike and Amanda Bristol founded Bristol Brewing Company — an independent, family-owned craft brewery in Colorado Springs, with three goals in mind:
- Brewing excellent craft beer
- Building relationships with their customers and their community
- Having a bunch of fun along the way!
It’s safe to say that three sons and two dogs later, they’ve become completely successful achieving all three of these goals — they still own and work at the brewery with a staff that prides itself on its award-winning beers and a local reputation for building community.
Bristol Brewing Co. is located at the historic Ivywild School, a former elementary school built in 1916, where they “happily ignore school rules, by brewing and serving beer in the classrooms, including the onsite pub.” The building’s original hardwood floors, brick walls, former gym and student artwork radiate charm and a “hip but super-friendly” vibe. They only sell their beer in the state of Colorado, with the intention of keeping brews as fresh and local as possible.
The brewery is extremely sustainable — they recycle the water in the brewery, on the bottling line, and in the cleaning process. They also reward customers who return the six-pack carriers so that they can be reused. Most notably, the Bristols even chose to renovate and reuse a 100-year-old building for operations rather than build something completely new! “Being mindful of our impact is just another way we like to give back.” states a sustainability pledge on the website.
Bristol Brewing Co. prides itself on giving back to the local community, most recently they’re donating 100% of profits from Ivywild School Pale Ale to the Angel Relief Fund of the Colorado Restaurant Association which supports hospitality industry professionals who’ve been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. They were just able to begin offering outdoor patio service again as of June 11, but before that they were overcoming the challenges of running a small business in the midst of the pandemic to stay afloat. Read about the hosted Facebook live tasting sessions, the pivot to virtual business operations, and the importance of the impact of community on local businesses in Bristol Brewing Co’s COVID Chronicle, below:
What’s the biggest challenge the business has faced during quarantine/the COVID crisis?
“I think just surviving while being closed and trying to take care of our employees are the biggest overall challenges. But overlaying that, is this massive unpredictability that makes it hard to plan for the next three weeks — much less the future.”
Are there any new business ideas that have come out of this experience?
“About every three weeks, Mike and I have been hosting virtual happy hours on Facebook Live to engage with our customers — to let them know we’re still here even though we’re closed, and that we care about how they’re doing.
We’ve been offering takeout, curbside pickup, and delivery of our pub beers. We’re also offering online ordering for the first time. We want to make it as easy as possible for people to buy our beer while they’re trying to stay safe.
Our latest project is that we are donating 100% of the profits from one of our beers to support servers and other restaurant industry workers in Colorado through the Colorado Restaurant Association’s Angel Relief Fund. These workers have been hit so hard by all the closings due to the pandemic, and we want to try and help out as best we can.”
Is there anything important you feel that this experience has taught you that you’d like to share as inspiration?
“It has taught me that our customer base is a community in and of itself, and that we all feel connected to each other by more than just beer. I think that’s why many of them have made a point to support us by buying our beer when they can, and I’m incredibly grateful for that, and humbled by it.
During our Facebook Live happy hours, the people that watched live seemed to view our presence as a bit of normalcy during a chaotic time, and I think they really enjoyed engaging with each other through the comments. At the end of one of those happy hours, someone commented, ‘Thanks for the reunion.’ I think our relationship with our customers is more meaningful than ever.”
Has this experience in any way changed the way that you’ll order your priorities in life, moving forward?
“It has definitely shown me the value of slowing down my previously very hurried pace. The result of that has been that I am more present and tuned in when spending time with family and friends, and taking time to notice the sights, the sounds, the smallest details of nature. All of that is so grounding and restorative, so I hope to keep this slower pace as a priority.
I’m also appreciating certain rituals that have developed in my daily life that have become something to look forward to and have brought new meaning to these quieter, slower days.”
What has your community been doing to fight the rate of transmission?
“Pretty much the usual — staying home when possible, wearing masks in public, tape on the floor in stores that reminds you where to stand in line, curbside pickup–like, even at the pet store, and just trying to give each other a wide berth out there.”
What has been the general daily business routine so far during the pandemic?
“Even though our onsite pub is closed, we’re still allowed to sell packaged beer through liquor and grocery stores, so we’re working pretty normal hours. I’m in charge of our marketing, so it’s been easy for me to work from home and through virtual meetings.
Mike has been going in two or three times a week for a socially-distanced meeting here or there and to check on things, because we’ve been doing a little renovating while we’ve been closed. We have a few staff who are working on site to manage to-go orders, and our brewer is still brewing, although on a shortened schedule.”
What have you all been doing to keep your spirits up on a day-to-day basis?
“We’ve been making a point to connect with friends virtually, getting outside whenever possible, and we come together every night for a really good dinner with two of our sons who are quarantining with us. We’ve also been treating ourselves to some comfort foods that we normally try to stay away from, which may not be terribly healthy, but they’re not called “comfort foods” for nothing!”
Has this travel ban/quarantine situation impacted any important plans you had laid out for the near future for Bristol Brewing Co.?
“We’ve had to cancel one of our annual events that we’ve been hosting for over a decade, and we’ve postponed a beer release by a couple of months. There are two other new beers we had planned on releasing that we just decided not to brew at all.”
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