Beer writer speaks out about mental health

Prominent beer writer Michael Donaldson has drawn attention to the mental health plight of craft beer brewers, citing a lack of support networks.

In a column published in the Society of Beer Advocates’ ‘Pursuit of Hoppiness’ publication, Donaldson acknowledged that while brewing may seem like a “rock star” occupation from the outside, the truth is far from it.

“With brewers increasingly given “rock star” status and elevated to god-like positions thanks to the nature of their creations, brewing can look like an A-list occupation,” he wrote. “The truth is – forgive the pun – sobering. The job involves long, often lonely, hours.”

Aside from the physical labour of brewing, the sheer volume of competition makes it hard for brewers to find vendors to sell their creations.

“Then, when you do sell it, some clown on Untappd tells the world your new kettle-soured fruit-infused beer tastes like donkey piss and that he hates sours and wishes it was an IPA.”

Donaldson compared the brewing industry to farming – a sector of New Zealand business where mental health issues are well-documented and efforts are being made to support farmers.

Mike Neilson of Panhead believes that the industry should be supporting a mental health campaign, having seen family and staff suffer from stress and anxiety and going through his own issues.

“You have a hard day at work or you don’t know where the next dollar is coming from – and you self-medicate to get in to what you believe is a better mental state, [which] makes for a very depressing morning. It’s a vicious cycle,” Neilson said. “Within our industry there’s a risk of it exploding due to the nature of how alcohol and mental health work. Every individual is different, but in an industry where there’s easy access to alcohol, when it’s not used wisely it can exacerbate issues. We know it is a problem – how do we collectively talk about it?”

The tide is starting to change, with Lion launching the Best ME programme to give staff support and advice, as well as entering into a partnership with Lifeline for their Zero Suicide Workplace scheme.

“We are doing this for the right reasons,” said Lion’s safety and wellbeing office Andy Graves. “I’m not saying it’s perfect but if it feels right, it’s probably the right thing to do, and this feels right.”