Sure, the beers were flowing in my living room and we’d even rustled up some match day grub in the form of burgers and cheesy chips. But without the hubbub of the busy streets, the roaring crowds and the match day fever that can only be felt in a pub jammed to the rafters, there was something amiss.
My overarching feeling was one of tremendous sadness for all the pubs and bars across the country that would be missing out on vital match day trade, my own taproom in Swansea being no exception.
The British Beer and Pub Association predicted that seven million extra pints of beer were sold in pubs during the Six Nations last year, boosting the sector by £27m. To me, even these hefty numbers sound far, far too conservative.
When you factor in that a quarter of a million people typically flock to Cardiff for the Welsh games, it is not impossible to imagine that this city alone could see a boost of well over £1m for a single home game.
The point is that for many pubs across the country, the Six Nations is the saving grace of the cold, winter months when people might otherwise be wrapped up at home.
The tournament is the beacon of hope that breaks the dearth of dry January in all the glory of its sea of thirsty crowds.
I know from speaking with our pub-owning customers that lots of them pin their hopes of the Six Nations after the busy Christmas season is over; it allows them to breathe a sigh of relief that things will pick up.
Our own Boss taproom would normally be fit to bursting point for each of the games, the crowd singing and the tills ringing.
For an industry that has already been crippled by the pandemic, this is another blow that hospitality literally cannot afford.
There was talk of the Six Nations being postponed until later in the year; restrictions dependent, this could have at least meant a delayed trading opportunity instead of missing out completely.
We’re lucky as a brewery that we have been able to adapt, earning a precious place in people’s at-home Six Nations experience in the shape of our beers in can and bottle.
I’m grateful that our retail and ecommerce business is strong. We’ve developed a Six Nations social media campaign with a series of activities aimed at ‘bringing the match day experience to you’. It has been great fun planning it and involves competition giveaways with other independent companies (our beers matched with burgers and local curry houses), a new beer release and takeaway cask beer that can be collected from our brewery two hours before Wales v England.
We were determined not to miss out on the trading opportunity completely and thankfully take-up has been strong.
Let’s all remain hopeful that there’ll be some sort of match day fever allowed by the time the Autumn Internationals come around.