This is the last in a series of interviews with some of the beverage industry workers who are working to bring beer to North County. Check out previous interviews with Lost Abbey’s Nate Bryson and Dos Desperados’ Dan Jackson.
It is widely assumed beer representatives have one of the most fun jobs ever. They talk about beer all day, visit cool bars and sometimes get to sample the merchandise. Those duties also involve a lot of in-person interaction, time on the road and competition for sales locally. I reached out to several reps working to bring beer to North County to see how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted them.
Taylor Allen is the Director of Sales for the continually growing Thorn Brewing Co. He began his journey behind the bar at the downtown Karl Strauss location where he fell in love with craft beer and the people both behind and supporting it.
Then a stint with Coronado Brewing working the festival and event circuit led to a position with Latitude 33. He began as a beer rep and over five years worked his way up ranks managing sales and distribution for the entire brand. In December of 2019, he joined Thorn Brewing just in time for the unique challenge of selling beer during a pandemic.
Cheers: How have your days changed from Pre-COVID-19?
Taylor: Lots of emails and phone calls! Let’s be honest, most bar managers have a lot going on right now trying to adapt to current rules and regulations, and most don’t have time to sit and chat with a beer rep. I’ve shifted a lot of my day to dropping samples and following up via phone or email.
I’ve also put in a little more time supporting my distributor reps as they are the ones who have better opportunities for face-to-face [interactions] given they still have to take the orders. Shout out to them because when everything was shut down they were still out in the trade trying to do their job!
Cheers: Have you been surprised by any changes in consumer reaction during this pandemic?
Taylor: The support from our fans and followers has been amazing! I expected off-premise sales to go up based on the sheer volume of people shopping at grocery stores, but I was surprised at how many people wanted to support Thorn specifically.
Back in March, we launched a direct-to-consumer delivery service, and the amount of people ordering beer by the case has been awesome. It wasn’t huge revenue, but it was enough to allow us to continue producing beer and keep some of our Thorn staff employed part-time.
Cheers: Have you had any really unusual, odd, awkward or entertaining customer interactions during the past six months?
Taylor: I think beer sales just in general have been an awkward experience. Typically its a friendly, warm, and inviting environment, but since COVID happened, I feel like I’m walking on eggshells every time I walk into a bar!
Cheers: How have you had to adapt to the safety concerns surrounding COVID-19?
Taylor: Well to start, I’ve taken five COVID tests to make sure I’m not spreading the virus to my accounts! The last thing I want to do is be the reason one of my favorite bars gets shut down. Since I’m constantly in and out of retailers I felt it was my responsibility to make sure I wasn’t getting anyone sick. And then the obvious ones like wear a mask, wash hands, social distance as much as possible, etc.
Cheers: Anything else we should know?
Taylor: Being a Beer Rep during all of this has been tough, but it is what we love to do. We enjoy meeting with people, sitting at our favorite bars, and talking beer with friends. When everything shut down it was devastating to our little beer community. Not only was everyone out of work, but we didn’t get to see our industry friends anymore.
Luckily we have seen an outpouring of support from everyone, and most breweries have been able to weather the storm. So shout out to anyone that’s bought a local six-pack, gotten a growler to-go, purchased merchandise or done anything to support your favorite breweries. It’s because of you we are able to continue doing what we love—sell San Diego beer!