CHANCELLOR ASKED TO HELP SMALL BREWERS
On 9 June, as reported in Drinks Retailing News magazine, a group of 14 MPs, acting in support of the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA), wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer asking him to give assistance to small brewers. SIBA reported that this sector had seen sales fall by 82% and around two-thirds of them had ceased operating. While some breweries had managed to adapt to the takeaway trade, particularly urban ones, those based on out of town sites or without suitable premises could not do likewise. The specific requests were for a reduction by half in beer duty payable by all British-owned independent brewers and for breweries to be allowed the business rates holiday granted to the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, along with access to certain grants.
To assist with cash flow, SIBA also asked for small breweries to be given time to pay the duty charged in March (especially given that the beer in question mostly and literally went down the drain). The hope was also expressed that the Treasury might make some progress on the review of Small Breweries’ Duty Relief, which it has been working on since 2018. James Calder, SIBA’s Chief Executive, said, “There are around 2,000 small independent brewers in the UK, and nearly every MP has at least one brewer in their patch creating great beer and employing local people. If the Chancellor were to enact what we are calling for, we have a fighting chance of survival. Without these reforms, thousands of skilled jobs in breweries and in the supply chain will be lost.”
There were no London MPs among the signatories and no specific help for brewers was included in the Chancellor’s Summer Economic Update, reported in News and Views.
Forest Road Brewing
Alas, FRB have had to make changes to their Pint Delivery Service following complaints from what they describe as ‘a rival brewery with corporate backing’. As far as is known, the service continues all the same.
Based in Victoria Docks E16, Husk recently had a crowd-funding campaign, mainly involving local customers and residents, to finance the development of the brewery. The work, to create an upstairs bar and eating area, including a kitchen, has continued during lockdown. The food will be mainly gourmet style burgers. Two new beers are available: Blackberry & Lemongrass Sour (4.4% ABV), which is based on a Berliner Weisse, and Mango Milkshake IPA (5.3% ABV) which is brewed using Citra and Mosaic hops with lactose, vanilla and mango.
Having installed a canning line, Park have weathered the storm quite well. The cans have been supplied to some new outlets and draught beer is back in three pubs in the Kingston area, including the Norbiton.
Now that pubs are now returning to business, the company is looking forward to a return to normality. Their tap room and shop at Yelverton Road is currently closed because they need the space for staff health and safety purposes under the current guidance. Their home delivery service proved to be a huge success during lockdown and will continue.
Lockdown also allowed Sambrook’s to play with a few recipes and develop more products in small pack, such as Junction in 500ml bottles which has been a huge success since its launch in May. Pagoda Pilsner (named after the Buddhist pagoda in Battersea Park) has also been well received. It was originally brewed as a session pale ale for a customer who cancelled as lockdown started. It was left in the conditioning tanks and after two months had developed into a superb hybrid beer: brewed as an ale but cold conditioned like a lager. Sambrook’s have also launched a range of 440ml cans of unfiltered beer, the first three in the series being their Session IPA, Battersea Rye and Lavender Hill. Lavender Hill will also soon return in cask, albeit in smaller quantities than hitherto.
Sambrook’s are pushing ahead with the launch of their new brewery and tap room at the Ram Quarter in Wandsworth. The opening was originally scheduled for August this year but the target is now October, subject to satisfactory progress with the works and getting the new brewery up and running in time. Accordingly, they will almost certainly vacate the Yelverton Road premises before the end of the year, perhaps earlier, but not before a ‘drink the brewery dry’ party planned for September by which time, hopefully, restrictions will have been further eased.
Thames Side Brewery
Many breweries started doing deliveries during lockdown but how many did them by kayak? It makes sense if your brewery has moorings on the Thames in front of it. Andy Hayward, the owner and head brewer, explained, “One Sunday I had to go to the brewery to dry hop the next batch of White Swan Pale Ale, and as the weather was nice we (Andy, Michele and Peewee) decided to kayak there. One of our regulars happened to walk past as we were getting ready to set off and said he really needed some of our beer that afternoon! I told him I was just going to the brewery and could bring some back for him and drop off that afternoon, which offer he gratefully accepted!” There are currently no plans to reopen the brewery’s tap room because it is too small but it remains open for takeaways on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 4pm to 7pm.
The brewery has new premises in the railway arches in Mentmore Terrace, London Fields (E8). They moved in during June and have installed a second hand brewing plant which they purchased from Wild Card Brewery. They have also set up a taproom which they were hoping to open on the weekend of 11/12 July and hopefully every weekend after that. It will be gradual, phased opening while they find their feet and get used to the COVID restrictions. Three Sods recently added three new beers to their range. There are two IPAs, Brio and Beatbox (both 5.4% ABV) and a Session Pale (3.8% ABV). All three are available in cask form.
Construction of the new brewery in Walthamstow was due to have started in April but, inevitably, the COVID-19 crisis intervened. While the company reassess their plans, the site, 7,000 square feet, will be used as a large beer garden with more than adequate space for ‘social distancing’. Known as the Social Club – booking is required: go here.
Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Two Tribes, who are based in the Tileyard development in King’s Cross, have seen sales increase over the last six months, helped by their home delivery operation. They have continued brewing through lockdown. As a consequence, they need to expand their brewing plant and so have ordered new equipment from Europe which will triple their capacity. There will also be improvements to their canning line and an upgrade of their laboratory. There will also be changes to their tap room.
From a Two Tribes press release
Wimbledon Brewery: the brewery have managed to keep sales at around 80% of their pre-COVID level. Mark Gordon, who founded the company, told the Beer Today website, “Before the crisis started, bottles and cans made up around 10% of our turnover, with 90% coming from pubs, bars and hotels. With the lockdown, we had to adapt our business plan quickly and we concentrated on local home deliveries and increased sales to supermarkets and bottle shops. This went from a very low base to the equivalent of 80% of our pre-lockdown turnover. We initially closed the brewery but quickly took the decision to reopen because beer can be very good for morale and breweries have a long tradition of keeping going through adversity. The support from the local community has been quite overwhelming and the buying local theme is definitely here to stay.”
Wimbledon also found a novel use for some of the beer that it could not sell to pubs. Instead it went to the Trenchmore Wagyu Beef Farm in Sussex. Wagyu cattle are massaged and fed a diet that includes beer, which helps produce meat that is extremely tender, finely marbled, and full flavoured. Expect Wimbledon Wagyu burgers to be available in due course.
Finally, and sadly, the company’s distinctive blue Land Rover was stolen on 29 June. The vehicle is treasured by the company and they would be most grateful for any information leading to its recovery. The registration number is AK11 LHU. If you see it about, please call 020 3674 9786 or email
Tony Hedger (except where credited)