Bassetlaw brewer ‘ramps-up’ production in readiness for pubs reopening

A Bassetlaw brewery is preparing to ‘ramp-up’ production ahead of pubs reopening next month.

By Ben McVay
Thursday, 11th June 2020, 6:07 pm

Welbeck Abbey Brewery saw sales plummet after pubs were shut on March 20 when lockdown was introduced – with sales in May down 55 per cent compared to the same period in 2019.

Most of its staff were furloughed as boozers across the district closed their doors.

However head brewer James Gladman was kept on to ensure their special strain of yeast survived the Covid-19 drought.

Welbeck Abbey Brewery's head brewer James Gladman.

The business - which has been trading since 2011 from a listed barn at the Welbeck Estate - stayed afloat by starting an online shop delivering to customers within a five-mile radius.

The majority of Welbeck’s customers are small, independent pubs - and they deliver to over 500 drinkeries in a 35-mile radius.

However many of them have been badly-hit by social-distancing measures.

In May the Government said the hospitality sector - including pubs, bars and restaurants - could start to reopen ‘no earlier than July 4’ - though this depended on Covid-19 safety guidelines being met.

Welbeck Abbey Brewery's Henrietta golden ale

Though the government has yet to announce details of what these guidelines may be on Tuesday Business Secretary Alok Sharma said it would provide ‘further safer working guidance’

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Louise McArthur, responsible for marketing at the brewery, said Welbeck were now ‘increasing the brewing schedule’ in anticipation of their reopening.

She said: “When our customers are ready to reopen we need to have product ready to support them.

Welbeck Abbey Brewery's James Gladman

“We need to be flexible because we don’t anticipate them trading in the same way - it’s still such a grey area.

“But we can produce beer in a way that it can have a fairly long shelf life - so we can produce it in advance.

“Any left-over we can sell in bottles or mini-kegs in our online shop.”

In March alcohol sales in UK supermarkets and corner shops soared by 22 per cent - while off-licences reported a surge of 31 per cent.

Welbeck Abbey Brewery mini-kegs

Louise - who was brought back from furlough with three other members of staff over the last month - said Covid-19 had resulted in ‘huge’ orders from off-licences.

She said: “Before this our main customers were pubs - all our income came from supplying them with casks.

“But during the pandemic some of the off-licences we supply have been trading in huge numbers - we have a couple that have been ringing us every week with huge orders.”

Marketing worker Louise told how the success of Welbeck’s online shop - which was created after pubs closed - had convinced the beer producer to change its business model.

She said: “Obviously we’re not producing at 100 per cent but we’ve never stopped brewing.

Some of Welbeck Abbey Brewery's bottled beers

“We’d never had an online shop before but it’s been so successful we’re looking to continue it after lockdown - this has made us aware of another avenue.

“But obviously we owe our survival to the customers who supported us as their local brewery by purchasing our product online.”

To have a look at Welbeck’s online shop click HERE.

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