Jennings Brewery — after the floods

By MA Reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Brewery, Flood, Brewing, Beer

Unprecedented: floods at Jennings Brewery
Unprecedented: floods at Jennings Brewery
With the floods in Cockermouth receded, those at the Marston's-owned Jennings brewery reflect on the tumultuous past few weeks.

It was effectively like a washing machine inside the brewery. Equipment that weighs about two tonnes was floating around inside the building. It was a scene of total devastation," said Jennings head brewer Jeremy Pettman.

Almost two weeks after torrential rain submerged Cockermouth, Pettman and others at the brewery have had time to look back on one of the darkest — and wettest — periods in its history.

"There were a few people who thought that the floods would be the end of the brewery — that production of all our beers would move permanently to other sites within Marston's.

"As soon as people were reassured, everybody knew what they had to do and just got their heads down and got on with the job of clearing up."

Marston's Beer Company managing director Stephen Oliver said: "There were people who started saying that this was the perfect excuse for us to pull out of Jennings, some maliciously, some naively. It was incredibly important to let everybody know how much we value

Jennings and our four other regional breweries."

Oliver spent a day in Cockermouth last week and added: "Although the water had gone, you could see the tide mark against the walls. The force with which the water had moved through the brewery was evident — it has smashed into everything in its way."

Rather than halting production, the decision was taken to brew at other sites owned by Marston's — and donate 10p from every pint sold to the Cumbrian Flood Relief Fund.

"They are being brewed elsewhere until the brewery is back up and running — all customer-service calls have been, for the time being, re-routed to allow staff in Cockermouth to concentrate on the clean up. It is this flexibility within the Marston's group of regional breweries that has allowed the process to run as speedily and efficiently as it has."

Emergency plans

Emergency plans were put into place the moment it became apparent waters were rising much faster and higher than in any previous years. "We've had flooding before, but nothing ever like this. The brewery was under about five feet of water by early afternoon — it quickly became an 'all hands on deck' situation," said Jennings brewery manager Gaynor Green.

Thrust in front of the TV cameras for the live lunchtime bulletins as well as trying to salvage whatever was possible from the brewery, Green said the rapid rise of the water level caught everyone off guard.

"We had our draymen out in Keswick, their cars were all in the car park, but by the time they got back you could just see the tops of them. The force of the water had actually pushed out a car locked up in a garage next door to the brewery and sent it down the street, and when the waters receded they had actually churned up the road."

With flood water receded, Jennings' staff are busy cleaning up the brewery ready for production of its beers to return to Cockermouth in the new year. The brewery is due to reopen in mid-January.

Green added: "We've almost cleared out the brewery. There's a specialist clearing team getting rid of the silt, which in some places was a couple of inches deep and got into all the equipment.

"But it's extremely heartening and down to the hard work and positive attitude shown by everyone here at the brewery."

Pub case study: the Tithe Barn, Cockermouth

The Jennings pub sustained extensive damage to the cellar, totalling between £20,000 and £30,000, after 3ft 6in of water filled the building.

It destroyed three freezers, the ice machine, the beer pipes and the cooling system.

The damage to the drinks supply has been put at £2,500, in addition to food loss.

Tenants Glyn and Barbara Hewitt have two insurance deals: building cover with the brewery and fixture cover with Alliance. "Jennings was reasonably quick off the mark and will replace the beer lines," said Glyn.

No rent payments have been demanded since the flood. Glyn expects to resume payment when the pub is serving draught beer.

"Alliance was absolutely excellent," he said. "A loss adjuster arrived on Saturday and authorised whatever we needed. Within a week the building was cleared and sanitised."

The pub reopened 10 days after the flood, serving bottled drink and food. Glyn expects to be serving draught beer by next weekend.

The Tithe Barn has lost money through its 10-day closure and cancelled Christmas bookings. "You do rely on your December business to make up for October and November," said Glyn. "And it ain't going to happen."

Related topics: Beer

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