Glasses were raised in pub gardens across the country on Saturday as revellers wrapped in thick jackets and jumpers made the most of the spring sunshine – and the beer.
Publicans and brewery owners are quietly worried about how to keep up with customers’ overwhelming thirst for beer, wine and spirits in the face of supply chain issues and staff recruitment problems.
Some pub-goers are reporting visiting pubs which have sold out of beer. Richard Whitaker, 36, was enjoying a pint at the Deviant & Dandy brewery in Hackney, London, but said many pubs he had visited had sold out.
“Two days ago I was at a pub in Deptford where they sold out of beer. I was disappointed.”
However, he wasn’t letting the prospect of a beer shortage spoil his fun. “I’m having a great time out and about, even if the weather is unpredictable.
“It’s good to see friends again. I just hope the beer doesn’t run out like the other day.”
According to industry analysts CGA Strategy, the first week of reopening in England saw sales at a similar level to the same week in 2019. Heineken is said to have limited sales of two of their beers, Birra Moretti and Amstel, forcing it to restrict supplies to three kegs per pub.
Tayler Connoll, from Deviant & Dandy, said: “The first week we had a brew of pale ale, and usually that would last us a couple of weeks, and going out to sales as well. Within five days it was all out. We had to get the brewer straight back in again. We don’t want to be a brewery that doesn’t have any beer.
“Everything is always full now. It’s a good problem to have. I’d rather run out of stock because we’ve sold it all.”
Five Points Brewery in Hackney was taken aback by the surge in demand. Jack Thomson, its accounts manager, said: “Pubs are not able to reopen properly until [later in] May, so with any outdoors space we were expecting low demand. But it’s been brilliant that there has been as much demand as there has been.
“People like the experience, and the moment of being in the pub, more than they like being at home in front of the TV with a beer.”
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “There has been lots of enthusiasm to return to pubs, which is great news for our sector. It does mean that demand has been higher than expected.
However, she added: “There is still plenty of beer for everyone. Pub-goers can rest assured that they can still visit their local and enjoy a fresh pint.”
Landlords will have a chance to restock this week. Forecasters are predicting a bank holiday washout, with heavy winds and rain expected to move in across the UK throughout the week.
Sitting in a pub garden will only appeal to the hardiest of drinkers.