International Insights: Anna Anderson, Drifter Brewing Company

International Insights is a continuing series of Q&As with brewing members, but this time branching outside of the US and into the rest of the world.
In this series, Brewer will share personal insights from international breweries each week about the craft beer market in other countries, where those brewers get their inspiration, and how the market compares to craft beer in the US.


Anna Anderson, Drifter Brewing Company — South Africa

BREWER:Tell me about the creation of brewer Nick’s Captain’s Log. Did any business/beer revelations come out of his quarantine in the brewery?
ANDERSON: Nick was in New York City on business when things started unravelling around the world with the COVID-19 pandemic. Luckily, after many cancelled flights he was able to get back into South Africa six hours before the border closed. He needed a place to self-isolate for the two-week period so the brewery seemed like a good enough option as the tanks and beer would also need to be checked on too. Nick went through the same ups and downs that we were all experiencing as we adjusted to lockdown. His grandmother passed away during his first week inside which brought to attention the collective grief going on around the world and the lack of being able to gather and mourn together. There weren’t major business revelations that came out of Nick’s isolation time, except once again realizing how much he loves Drifter and wants to see it continue on. He also got very creative…and maybe a little crazy when he began making paper puppet friends! 

BREWER: How has COVID-19 affected your country and your brewery? What measures have been put in place by the government?
ANDERSON: On March 27, South Africa went into lockdown and at that point, the number of reported cases in the country seemed low compared to what we were witnessing around the world. We all came to terms with the strict lockdown measures that the government set for us nationally, because we were hopeful that we would be able to get ahead of this thing and quickly nip it in the bud within the 21-day initial time period. Some of the measures included no leaving your house except for essential trips or deemed essential work (so no exercise or dog walking), no recreational visits, and the big one of banning the sale and transportation of cigarettes and alcohol. Obviously, this last one hit us the hardest. At first, we understood that the government was trying to follow the World Health Organization recommendations on this point and wanted to avoid alcohol-related incidents coming into hospitals. Now we are on Day 50 and way past our initial lockdown time period. Most of the above measures have not changed, except for being allowed a three-hour exercise time period from 6-9 a.m. near your house. If there’s one thing we’re learning from other parts of the world and even here, it is that people are drinking and buying booze during this time period. Now in South Africa, alcohol is just being sold illegally through a black market bootleg system or folks are creating weird concoctions at home. 

BREWER: How is your brewery adapting to the evolving landscape of this pandemic and the continuing alcohol ban in South Africa?
ANDERSON The Soup-A-Heroes initiative is a big adaptation for us and due to how much the operation has grown, it is becoming another whole project to run and try to maintain through donations. Luckily, last November we also launched an alcohol-free version of our popular buchu-infused gin and tonic that comes pre-mixed in a bottle and we are currently able to sell that. So this will be a big focus now as the alcohol-free drinks in South Africa are gaining huge traction right now. Otherwise, to be honest, the once growing and exciting craft beer industry in this country is looking really grim and dire. Our lockdown levels can change at any moment and everyone is hoping that when we get to level three, the booze ban will lift.

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