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Lockdown ‘could have catastrophic effect’ on small brewers, expert warns

PUBLISHED: 00:48 05 May 2020 | UPDATED: 10:53 05 May 2020

Father and son team John and Alan Ridealgh, founders of the Humber Doucy Brewing company at Bacton  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Father and son team John and Alan Ridealgh, founders of the Humber Doucy Brewing company at Bacton Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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A craft brewer has seen sales plummet by 40% after orders for pubs and beer festivals dried up amid the coronavirus crisis.

Humber Doucy beers  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNHumber Doucy beers Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

But Alan Ridealgh of Humber Doucy Brewery, near Stowmarket, is hopeful that small operations like the start-up he launched with Norwich-based son, John, last year will find innovative ways to survive the downturn.

Researchers at Anglia Ruskin University are looking at how small breweries are innovating to keep afloat amid a flattening of numbers launching craft breweries.

MORE – Father and son craft brewing duo tap into nation’s thirst for local beer

Latest figures from accountancy group UHY Hacker Young suggest the number of breweries has stalled for the second year in a row after a period of explosive growth between 2012 and 2018. Its study found the total had fallen by one over the last year to 2,273 amid increased competition from multinational brewers, and a trend away from drinking beer among younger generations.

Tom Goodacre, of the Faculty of Business and Law at Anglia Ruskin, said brewers had seen many traditional sources of income wiped out in recent weeks, warning the virus could have a “catastrophic effect” on small brewers.

Father and son team John and Alan Ridealgh at their brewery in Bacton  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNFather and son team John and Alan Ridealgh at their brewery in Bacton Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

“It’s a hit because the volume is in cask to pubs and beer festivals. We also had to close our shop,” admitted Alan, who used to run Stowmarket malt firm Muntons.

“And of course no one is having wedding receptions and companies are not celebrating anything. “But volumes are creeping up again as we get going with our free local delivery plan.”

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He feels most small brewers are “quite innovative” and would be able to find ways to survive the crisis.

John Ridealgh with Humber Doucy beers  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNJohn Ridealgh with Humber Doucy beers Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

“As we come into the summer, I am sure the demand will be there. The question is how we approach what is essentially an unknown situation without precedent,” he said.

“Humber Doucy Brewing has been brewing in Bacton for barely a year, we are a new start up company, so we anticipated potential slow periods as we built our business.

“We were just making real strides with sales to pubs when lockdown was imposed which was disappointing.

“Survival in general in the sector will depend on controlling overheads including people. I’m sure the furlough scheme is helpful in this regard. This is not a concern for us as there are only two of us.”

The government’s Small Business Grant had been “a real saviour” when it came to cash flow, he said.

“We actually carried out a business risk exercise in October, not knowing anything about the coronavirus. The key question we asked ourselves was could we survive with no sales or with minimal sales. We concluded we could and for a considerable time.”

The brewery has set up a delivery scheme free in certain IP and NR post codes, and has adapted its offer with a “Pub in a Box” including a selection of locall-sourced snacks to choose from.

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