COVID-19 Impacts on Spirit Education
As we all return to a new “normal” heading into 2023 with COVID-19 passing by in the rearview, our company excitedly reflects on our evolution over the past few years, and the impact pandemic challenges have had within our business environment and industry. Moonshine University and spirits education were no exception to facing unforeseen challenges, but these obstacles opened a door to new opportunities for growth. Our spirits-based learning facility explored opportunities to expand its offerings during a time when in-person learning was simply impossible. The pandemic may have limited our physically present nature in working and learning environments, it also however encouraged new ways of teaching and reaching different audiences through spirit education.
Moonshine University felt the impacts of the pandemic almost immediately and enduringly, requiring plans to adjust programming within the scope of minimal in-person contact. Q1 to the middle of Q2 in 2021 continued to see heavy limitations on how many students could be allowed into one space, cutting capacity down to half than in previous courses. This shift impacted our two flagship courses the most, the 6-Day Distiller Course and the STS Executive Bourbon Steward program.
Though challenged, our team took advantage of innovative ways to reach new students and cultivate a different type of spirits-education classroom. Moonshine University began offering free live webinars, making use of our extensive faculty base. We delivered this education the same way we do with in-person courses, by bringing industry experts to share their knowledge and build awareness of everything we have to offer here on our beverage campus.
“COVID forced us to rethink everything. How we operate, what we offer, and how to create the safest, healthiest environment. While a lot has returned to our ‘normal’ way of running classes, some of the changes we made during that time are here to stay. That period helped us think through how to give the best educational experience in the safest way possible and how to educate people about spirits beyond our physical location.” – Colin Blake, Director of Spirits Education
At that time the main focus was not developing additional Moonshine University programs, although the team relied heavily on virtual platforms and a strong online presence to continue providing access to courses for any and all potential students. We strengthened our social media presence and activity to build our audience and cultivate our online educational platforms. Our teams collaborated to develop a learning management system to bring the flagship Stave and Thief Executive Bourbon Steward Course online. COVID-19 may have been a dark cloud of negative impact, it did however provide an opportunity to shine light on new ways of teaching and engaging under unconventional circumstances.
Now, in the season of change and re-opening, Moonshine University is back in the swing of things. Moonshine University’s programs post-pandemic have refocused on strengthening core education, enrolling more students into our workshops, and providing new opportunities; these include a revamped Rum Workshop (link), a Canadian Whisky class (link) and an expansion of the Sensory Workshop (link) offering a wider range of sensory knowledge and experiences.
As we move past our 10th anniversary year and leave behind the dark cloud of a global health crisis and its challenges, we remind those reading that the incredible strides we have made virtually do not replace the driven, hands-on educational mindset brand we proudly are. While we change what the world is drinking, we are simultaneously cultivating strength in our industry through quality experiences and high value education. Our Marketing Manager Jordan Plappert sums it up best.
“Our ability to share more knowledge and cast a wider net has our attention. We will continue to find ways for people to dip their toes into the industry with digital offerings, but it will never replace all that we do.” – Jordan Plappert, Marketing Manager