Brewers welcome return to trading after lockdown

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image copyrightBrass Castle Brewing
image captionBrass Castle Brewery in Malton says it's currently running at about 30% when compared to pre-Covid trade

Brewers say they are hoping the return of outdoor drinking and dining can revive their struggling industry.

An estimated 87 million pints of beer have been thrown away in the UK since the start of the Covid pandemic.

Businesses have been forced to adapt as a result, with brewers turning to online sales, home deliveries and developing new flavours to survive.

With beer gardens reopen for the first time in months one brewer said it was "fantastic to be back trading again".

Docks Beers, based close to Grimsby's docks, employs 40 people through its brewery, taproom and events space.

But when the first lockdown hit director William Douglas said the company lost 85% of its revenue overnight.

And, though business is picking up again, he said orders were still well below pre-pandemic levels.

"We haven't seen the landslide of orders from our trade customers, because there's lots without outside drinking space that aren't opening," he said.

"It's not anything like the levels of trade sales that we had before lockdown in February 2020."

image copyrightDocks Beers
image captionDocks Beers opened a performance venue in Grimsby above their taproom, but the venue was forced to close almost instantly

In March 2020 Docks Beers converted a former church into a 300 capacity venue but within weeks it was forced to close, leaving the company with construction costs still to pay off.

In a bid to generate some extra income the firm hosted a two-week long season of drive-in films at Cleethorpes Football Club.

Mr Douglas said: "We've managed to push away our debts until November, my absolute earnest hope is that we're back to normal non-socially distanced customers by then otherwise we're going to really struggle.

"We will not be back to full health until we can trade with a full building."

image copyrightDocks Beers
image captionDocks Beers held a two-week season of drive-in films in July at Cleethorpes Town football club to help maintain the business

Brass Castle Brewery, in Malton, increased its emphasis on canning beers to survive lockdowns and switched to online sales and home deliveries.

One of its lockdown successes was an unlikely partnership with a Caribbean cocoa producer, more than 4,000 miles away from North Yorkshire, to create an unusual chocolate beer.

Phil Saltonstall, brewery founder and owner, said: "Small breweries are adaptable and responsive by their nature and so we just applied that ability to the Covid crisis.

"That flexibility has been very important, as general uncertainty has given us huge problems with planning, because of the lead times in fermenting and finishing beers of different types."

media captionOver the three national lockdowns most pubs have been shut, meaning breweries have had to adapt

The brewery, which started as an experiment in a garage in Pocklington, East Yorkshire, 10 years ago, says it's currently running at about 30% when compared to pre-Covid trade.

"We wait to discover if the behaviour of the public will change as a result of our shared Covid experience and whether people will feel confident about returning to the pub, he continued.

"The hospitality sector has, by and large, been the sector that has made the most effort to render its spaces safe - I hope the public will recognise that."

image captionJamie Lawson of Ossett Brewery says he hoped to have all of the brewery's pubs open by mid-May

Ossett Brewery was one of the sites having to pour beer down the drain, with its cask brewing lines usually serving pubs, but deals to keep its drinks on supermarket shelves kept it afloat.

"We would have liked to be able to open inside [this week], but you've got to take what you're given," says co-owner Jamie Lawson.

"We've opened the beer gardens and it's really symbolic, it's fantastic to just get back trading again and to build momentum."

On Monday, the West Yorkshire brewer was able to open 20 of its pubs, with the remaining eight due to open next month.

"The next big date is going to be 17 May when we can open inside, but just to be back selling beer again and seeing the smiles on people's faces is amazing."

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