"We will bring the pub to you" - local Leeds breweries go on the road amid pub shutdown
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That is the message from some of the city’s biggest beer brewers who, despite pubs having being closed due to the spread of coronavirus, are keeping people’s spirits up by delivering beers to the door.
Independent breweries have seen a spike in online sales, with one reporting a 1000 per cent increase on normal sales and another getting orders from as far as the Lake District.
Northern Monk, based at Holbeck, has been embracing the change to how it normally operates by introducing on-line live tasting sessions with its head brewer and sending out tasting notes with each order so customers can still enjoy a pub style experience despite being asked to stay at home.
Founder Rusell Bisset told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “We still act like a start up. We have been running six years and started with £5,000. We always try to be on the front foot and are not afraid of a bit of adversity and will keep going as long as staff are safe.
“We have seen a massive increase in online demand, we are up 1000 per cent some days. It is really important in these times to have up-lifting moments - and a beer can be one of those and if people can’t get to the pub we are bringing it to them.”
And the best-seller of the week - "Faith".
North Brewing Co has had to close its six pubs and is also losing out on the orders it takes from other pubs and bars in Leeds. It says the home delivery has been a lifeline for the business, having made 350 deliveries in little more than a week.
Last Friday the company launched a voucher scheme to spend when the bars re-open, with 33 per cent extra credit, and within a week more than £3000 worth have been sold. A discount of 20 per cent is also in place for NHS workers.
Sarah Hardy, marketing manager, said: “We have done a lot more online than we expected. All of us care deeply about it so it has been quite emotional. We have contactless shops so drop on the door step, knock on the door and go back to the car.
“The response from people shouting back to us or emailing has been really, really nice. The orders have been a mixture of people that drink in our bars and are fans of our beer and people that just want to support us. I think people feel quite proud of the independent scene in Leeds and quite protective of it.
“Every single £1 that comes in is the most important £1 that we have ever taken. It is definitely helping morale. Compared to our usual takings we are nowhere near there but it is important for it to be coming in.”
Over at Kirkstall Brewery, a take out option was available from its pubs but when the order came for that to stop, the home delivery was quickly set up.
Deliveries are going far and wide. Virtuous remains the most popular seller but when the brewery started offering to take the beers to the homes of LS and BD postcodes, it may have underestimated its reach.
Matty Logan said: “We sold out the stock we had in cans and bottles which we were going to sell in the coming months to supermarkets. We are still producing and will bottle more beer in the coming weeks as long as we can.
“We forgot how big that postcode area was. We have had a few (orders) that were pretty much the Lake District. We have been surprised by the uptake, it has been overwhelming and humbling. Some people have been stocking up and some to give us the support that we need. They could buy it from Morrisons but are buying it directly from us.
“It is nice to see customers from our pubs that we know and some we don’t know, from the Lake District. We have taken a hit but it is nice to take our minds off it with the orders.”
The speed at which the coronavirus crisis has spread and affected day to day life and business has made even the more established breweries quickly re-shape their business offering but for one start-up, they had barely got their permanent premises set up before having to take to the road to brew up some income.
Piglove has been in the making for three years by cuckoo brewing and recently moved to a unit at Armley, with a view to opening a tap room in May. Piglove currently has two beers, Hop Healer and Limbus and was also planning launch a third beer next month and buy its own equipment next year - but these are now on hold.
However, in the last week, the business plan was re-drafted, a website built in the last few days and a home delivery service launched. It covers Leeds and Wakefield with two delivery days per week which will be extended if there is demand.
Marco Ramirez, co-founder, said: “We have had 12 orders in one day which is really good. We have had a good reaction from customers and they are quite happy to buy them to support small businesses and local. The last two months have been really good, people started to know about us and on social media and we had beers in Leeds, Sheffield, York and some national distributors.
Ossett Brewery, based in the heart of Ossett, said a “big thankyou” to everyone that had ordered take out beers after it too launched a home delivery service to cover the West Yorkshire area after having to close its pubs and microbreweries due to temporary rules designed to stop the spread of coronavirus.