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‘Glimmer of hope’ for breweries after pub reopenings beat expectations

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An “unbelievable” surge in post-lockdown demand for cask beer is offering “a glimmer of hope” for the struggling UK pub industry.

Production has been ramped up at breweries after some underestimated just how many pints would be sold in pubs after they reopened in last month.

The demand meant that the Timothy Taylor’s brewery in Keighley, West Yorkshire, brewed on a Sunday last weekend for the first time in its 163-year history.

The brewery, best known for its Landlord ale, lost £1.3m last year and had to throw away £600,000 worth of beer as the whole hospitality sector battled to survive the pandemic.

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Chief executive Tim Dewey told Sky News predictions across the industry were far too conservative.

“The last two weeks we have done similar volumes to what we did in the same two weeks of 2019 so that is unbelievable against the forecasts that people gave us.

“Our bottles (sales) have gone up 50% during the lockdowns but the reality is people really want a proper pint and the only way you can get that is in a pub – you can’t replicate it at home and so there is pent up demand.

“I don’t want to sound triumphant,” he added. “It is great that we are doing the business that we are doing – but I know there are a lot of brewers that aren’t.”

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Bigger brewers are urgently increasing production and continuing to limit supplies of premium brands including Birra Moretti and Amstel.

Image:
The Salt Beer Factory in Saltaire

A week after the shortages were first highlighted Heineken, which owns the two brands, told Sky News they are still working hard to source extra supplies from mainland Europe.

A spokesperson said: “Despite only 40% of pubs being able to open outdoor areas, we are experiencing similar levels of sales as a normal April with all pubs being open.

“We’ve therefore temporarily limited the amount of Birra Moretti and Amstel that pubs can order. All our breweries are working flat out brewing beer and we’re sourcing additional beer from Europe.”

At the Salt Beer Factory in Saltaire, established in 2018, they are back to pre-COVID levels of brewing and expect to break their sales record next week.

Director Nadir Zairi told Sky News: “It’s been amazing how willing people have been to sit in the cold, the rain, even the hail last week.

“There’s no doubt people have been desperate to get out and see each other.”

He added: “It is causing difficulties not being able to get some of the mainstream brands but it has pushed people towards our more local beers, which is good for us.

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“I’d say it’s just a big thank you to the British public for braving the elements and returning to the pub.”

Pubs in England, Scotland and Wales will be allowed to open for customers indoors from 17 May.

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