Breweries pour beer down the drain in national protest as they call for government to introduce support fund

A Leeds beer house has joined fellow independent breweries in a protest today lobbying the government to step in and help save the trade.

Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 4:45 pm

At 1pm brewers from as far apart as Cumbria to Devon literally poured spoiled beer down the drain in a show to the government the level to which their industry has been hit during the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown.

Around 80 per cent of the beer made by small producers, like Nomadic Beers at Sheepscar for example, is sold in pubs. However, because of Covid small breweries have brewed 200 million fewer pints of craft beer compared to 2019 – representing 10 years of lost growth for the sector.

They have also poured away six million pints of beer which could not be sold because of the closure of pubs.

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Katie Marriott pouring beer down the drain at Nomadic Beers in Leeds.

The protest today is calling on the Chancellor to help save local breweries by introducing a Brewers Support Fund, similar to what’s been seen in Scotland, which provides direct grants of up to £30,000 per small brewery.

Katie Marriott, from Nomadic Beers, said they have had no financial help since March last year.

She told the Yorkshire Evening Post: "In other parts of the UK, Scotland and Wales, breweries have had small grants - why isn't England doing the same? It has been hard and I am not going to pretend it hasn't and all breweries will tell you the same.

"Our wholesale contracts, they send back what they have not sold. We had to refund it and pour it down the drain and that was more heart-breaking."

Katie Marriott and Ross Nicholson working in the brewery.

Nomadic was supplying beer to pubs in Leeds, other parts of West Yorkshire, Manchester and Newcastle and that made up 99 per cent of the brewery's business. Pre-COVID, the brewery which operates from a unit at Sheepscar would do two brews a week, last summer after the first lockdown was lifted, it became two a month. There has not been a brew since November.

Ms Marriott added: "99 per cent of our trade was to pubs. When they closed in March 2020 we pretty much lost 100 per cent of our business. We had to write a new business plan within hours. We got a premises licence and started doing home deliveries. We decanted our casks into three and five litre pouches. We had to furlough staff and it has been me and a volunteer since March. Last year staff did come back from furlough for a month before we had to close again."

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Ms Marriott added that the effect on the hospitality industry has not just been to pubs and breweries but the supply chain beyond that for things such as napkins, bar snacks and beyond. In addition to the brewery grant she is also calling for more guidance, clarity and warning around the government's 'road-map' to reopening.

In the next couple of weeks Nomadic's sales rep will return to work to try and drum up trade for the rest of the year and the brewery is planning to start brewing beer again now so it can supply pubs ahead of April 12 when outdoor hospitality is set to be permitted.

She said: "We are brewing for the first time since November for this but what if they decide it is not the right time to open?"

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