Blue Coast was thrown a curve ball in the form of the Covid-19 pandemic, bringing the brewing company’s supply chain in Monaco to a dramatic holt and forcing the closure of its taproom in the French Riviera.
But the team behind this local craft brewery knew they had to be creative and adapt their business model to withstand the coronavirus shock.
To understand more, Monaco Life spoke to company CEO Celina Eude and ‘BlueCoaster’ F1 champion Daniel Ricciardo.
Monaco Life: Let’s kick off the interview with Daniel. Why did you decide to get involved in Blue Coast Brewing and what have been your favourite moments?
Daniel Ricciardo: When I was presented with the Blue Coast project, I was immediately seduced with the idea. Of course, as an Australian, we love beer! But I also really liked the idea of being surrounded by good friends and a good product to enjoy together.
What I like most about being involved with the brewery is meeting with head brewer Robert Bush when I’m in the south of France and trying out some of his latest creations in the taproom – where the magic operates.
How involved are you in the beer development and tasting process?
I don’t think of myself as a beer expert, rather I am a beer enthusiast and particularly fond of lager. I was behind the idea of creating a lager in 2019 and when we launched our new seasonal beer Lager N° 3 last May, I was of course impatient to try it. I am glad the team decided to add this lager to the Blue Coast range as a permanent beer as its proven to be very popular in this region and beyond.
Celina, who are the other investors / ambassadors for Blue Coast in Monaco?
Celina Eude: We are lucky to have been able to bring together like-minded people who share the same passion for craft brewing, for all the good things in life and for all the beautiful things the Côte d’Azur has to offer. These individuals have become what we call our ‘BlueCoasters’ – they like to enjoy the simple pleasures of life surrounded by friends and family and accompanied by a refreshing Blue Coast beer.
In addition to Daniel Ricciardo here, some of our other original ‘BlueCoasters’ include TV presenter Karen Minier-Coulthard, F1 pilot Jenson Button and Tiffany Cromwell.
Can you tell us the story behind Blue Coast?
Blue Coast was born following a visit to the home of craft brewing, California, back in 2016. A group of founding ‘BlueCoasters’ sharing the same passion for craft beer decided to join forces and bring to the south of France a high quality, hand crafted beer for locals and visitors to share with their friends and family. The Anglo-Saxon name, Blue Coast, was given as a testimony to the Californian craft beer movement which took off in the 90s and is also a reminder of the colour blue of our beautiful Côte d’Azur for which we all share a common attachment.
From its early days in 2017, Blue Coast’s goal has been to brew outstanding, unique beers while maintaining an unwavering commitment to making beer the right way: sustainable, ethical, and with the patience required in the art of brewing. Whether brewing our original Blonde or perfecting our latest seasonal brew, we approach everything just as we did from day one, with commitment to excellence.
What has the response been to the brewery since it launched in 2017?
In this part of the world, the craft beer movement is starting to explode, and people are now much more inclined to appreciate craft beer and understand that there is a plethora of styles and flavours, just like wine.
The response we have received locally has been positive. We have been able to develop and nurture a real local community of craft beer ‘aficionados’ who get together every first Saturday of the month for our Blue Coast Sessions: an opportunity to meet at the heart of the brewery – our taproom, taste some of the latest creations, listen to some live music, savour some local delights from a regional food truck and just mingle with like-minded people. Unfortunately, these Sessions have been put on standby with the current Covid-19 crisis.
Since launching in 2017, we have seen more craft breweries pop up in the region and this makes us happy as it proves we are doing the right thing.
In your opinion, what makes Blue Coast unique?
Blue Coast is brewed with passion, by passionate people. Our head brewer Robert Bush is a craftsman who combines the work of his hands and his brain to craft new recipes and bring new experiences to our community. He is a character of great passion and commitment to the art of brewing.
In the words of Robert Bush: “I have been brewing beer for over 20 years and what I like most at Blue Coast is the fact we are continuously innovating and trying to provide new experiences, and the Mediterranean has proven to be a wonderful source of inspiration in terms of flavours and aromas”.
Selling our beer is of course important for us to maintain our business, but what brings us the biggest smiles is when we hear people appreciating our beer, sharing special moments with their friends or family and knowing that we are part of it.
Our best quality, besides having – in our point of view – one of the best brewers, is that we work as a team and we value each other’s views and expertise and try to bring the very best to our consumers.
What restaurants and bars in Monaco stock Blue Coast?
We have always had a strong presence in Monaco and are proud to count as historic partners: Stars’n’Bars, Le Rouge et le Blanc, Bars du Casino, The Yacht Club, La Brasserie du Mystic, and Tip Top, to name a few.
Today we are present in over 45 restaurants and bars in Monaco and you can view all these spots on our beer locator.
How did the shutdown of these bars and restaurants impact your business?
The sudden shutdown of bars, restaurants and hotels in the region has of course had a huge impact on our business. They are our historic partners and over the years we have developed very solid relationships with these clients. They represent 80% of our sales. We have tried to support each other through this crisis by communicating on take away services. Solidarity and resilience are what will get us through this crisis as a team.
This massive impact on our sales forced us to adapt our business model, looking at other distribution channels and sources of revenue such as e-commerce, home delivery and local supermarkets that remained open.
As a small business, how have you had to adapt your business practices?
It has been challenging, to be honest, as this unprecedent crisis hit us all in a sudden and drastic way. We had to react fast to protect our employees by closing our brewery temporarily and relying on government support to help us manage our cash flow. As for the business, we accelerated the launch of our online sales platform which now delivers our beer and merchandise to over 25 markets across Europe. To remain close and supportive of our local community, we launched Blue Coast Drive allowing our customers to pick-up their beers at the brewery once a week, and Blue Coast Deliveries locally to bring beers directly to our consumers in need of a cold and tasty refreshment.
To help local independent brewers during this difficult time, the BIAM (Association des Brasseurs Independants des Alpes Maritimes) referred to as the local independent craft brewers’ associations, of which Blue Coast is one of the founding members, came up with the idea to unite the 12 breweries in a common box, the B-Box. Brought together by 12 local craft breweries, the B-Box regroups a mixed pack of 24 bottles of locally crafted beers and, thanks to the support of passionate local breweries, is delivered to your doorstep in the 06. In May, the B-Box 2.0 was launched, inviting consumers to try out 12 craft beers from the Alpes Maritimes every month.
This crisis has reinforced the importance of solidarity and we look forward to implementing further initiatives with local craft breweries in the near future. Stay tuned…
Can you give us some stats on production levels and your most popular beer?
We have over 350 clients between Menton and St Tropez, and we have been working on expanding along the coast and nationally. Of course, our expansion has been slowed down lately.
In 2019 we brewed over 1,500 HL of beer and were set to almost double that in 2020 pre Covid-19.
We have a core range of six beers – Blonde, Lager, Blanche, Amber, IPA, LIPA (alcohol free) which we complement with seasonal and specialty beers. Our latest seasonal beer – Kawa Stout – was created in collaboration with Malongo.
When it comes to our most popular beer, our flagship Blonde continues to be very well appreciated by the local and international community and represents around 50% of our sales. Most recently, as palates evolve, we’ve noticed an increase in popularity and demand for our IPA, its bitterness is combined with an explosion of citrus and exotic fruits making it a thirst-quenching beer of intense character.
Do you follow sustainable practices at the brewery?
Quality, authenticity and sustainability are key characteristics of how we brew our beer at Blue Coast. Quality because our beer is made using the finest ingredients and brewed with love. Authenticity because what we do is respect the traditional beer making process and allow for the necessary time for a high-quality brew with little intervention. Sustainability as we believe in supporting the community and donate our Brewers Spent Grain (BSG) to local farmers who feed it to their herds.
Are you planning some exciting events now lockdown has been lifted?
We are working on ways of bringing back the community to the heart of our brewery, the taproom, but it will most likely be in smaller groups. It is important that we continue sharing these moments together with the right safety measures in place.
Digital technology and experiences have brought people together during the lockdown and I believe we can learn a lot from that too. Our dedicated and passionate team are already working on new initiatives and products to brighten-up our summer ahead!
Top photo by Anthony Oberst