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Virginia brewery responds to insults with new beer supporting workers

"We don't really do this about mask-wearing or COVID, we really do this out of just basic respect for service industry workers," Sanfrantella said.
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The beer taps in a pub. nobody. Selective focus. Alcohol concept. Vintage style. Beer craft. Bar table. Steel taps. Shiny taps.

BEDFORD, Va. — A new porter from the Bedford brewery Beale's has notes of pecan and is a little malty and a little sweet. It might even taste a little like pecan pie.

But what's perhaps most novel about the new brew is what's on its label: a picture of Beale's manager Brittany Canterbury and beer's name: "Your Manager is B——."

The limited-release beer is the third in the series the brewery has named "Troll the Trolls," based on actual comments received either on social media or via email from customers. The two other beers are "Closed by Christmas" and "Troll the Trolls."

"Your Manager is B——" — the last word, uncensored on the label, rhymes with "witch" — was born after a disgruntled customer emailed the brewery with that insult to Canterbury and said their beer tasted like "hot, old orange juice."

Emily Sanfratella, Vice President of operations for Beale's, said the email was traced back to a customer who had become abusive and confrontational after he was told to put a mask on.

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"He just kind of flew into a rage and he started yelling at the host, the manager, Brittany, who told him to put a mask on or he would have to leave," she said. "He yelled two more things, left, ended up phoning back that evening and yelled on the phone to the person who answered, and then they sent an email."

So, the brewery, which opened in 2017 at 510 Grove St. in Bedford, took the negative situation and turned it into something positive.

"We don't really do this about mask-wearing or COVID, we really do this out of just basic respect for service industry workers," Sanfrantella said. "And I think that's an issue that's been going on, far longer than COVID has. I think there's sometimes a sense of entitlement that a few customers have because they're spending money in an establishment and they think they can act any way they choose and treat employees in any way that they choose."

Canterbury said she is overjoyed knowing the message has reached so many who have experienced the same treatment.

"We see you and we stand with you," she said. "This isn't just about our small-town brewery. Worldwide customer service industry workers have experienced this and many more unfortunate situations. COVID has brought out the worst in some but for us, it's shown how strong we are and what we're capable of accomplishing in such trying times. We will keep fighting the good fight, keep coming out on top."

Beale's customer Scott Boiles, a resident of Smith Mountain Lake, said he had heard people complain about the mask policy for inside the brewery and felt the establishment has been following the rules Gov. Ralph Northam set last year.

"You just try to do the best you can during this pandemic," he said. "They've always been upfront with everyone about the rules. And as for Brittany, she's the biggest sweetheart in the world."

RELATED: Governor Northam lifts some COVID-19 restrictions in Virginia

He said staff members are working as hard as they can just to stay open and he doesn't understand why customers are trying to hassle them.

"If people want to be idiots about it, so be it, but don't be surprised to be called out on it," he said. "You're going there to have a beer; lighten up, dude."

Sanfrantella said Canterbury has been doing a great job of holding staff together and has kept things moving forward in a positive way all throughout the pandemic.

"And so you know for her to be labeled a b—— and for her to receive that sort of feedback just for doing her job is, we think, ridiculous, and so we just want to have fun with it and we wanted to take the opportunity to turn it into a positive situation," she said.

Dave Henderson, owner of The Water Dog at 1016 Jefferson St. in Lynchburg, said his experiences during the pandemic are very similar to those of other restaurants in the area and said it is unfortunate there are people with a chip on their shoulder related to mask policies.

"Truthfully, our staff is like family to us and we honor and respect them and they actually are a priority for us," he said. "I know everybody's grown up with the idea that the customer's always right, but that's just not the case, and people during COVID have certainly given us a lot of grief about our mask policy and social distancing and we usually get that feedback, not necessarily always in person, but online."

Henderson said it is "pure genius" what the Bedford brewery did and he applauds them for having fun with it.

"I love the fact that Beale's stood up for their employee," he said. "They're human beings and they know when a customer comes in and mistreats an employee or mistreats anyone, then they set themselves up. And Beale's just did it masterfully and I have so much respect for them. I'm so impressed."

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