Many brewers and pub operators were forced to face up to the heartbreaking reality of a spring without their business functioning when they had to destroy barrels of beer. But now it is time to look forward and to get the cellars across the country restocked and ready to go.
Many things necessary for reopening will be continuations of what was required during the lockdown period.
Samantha Norris, operator at the White Lion in Weston, Crewe, Cheshire, says she feels confident about the process of preparing the cellar to reopen up the pub.
She explains: “We are up to date with all of our suppliers so, fingers crossed they are still in business, and nothing will change.”
The pub operates the Heineken SmartDispense System meaning the brewing giant will carry out checks for the site to ensure it opens safely.
The publican is going to rewrite the site’s policy on Legionnaires’ disease for its ice machines and coffee machines.
The risk of Legionella – the bacteria that causes a brutal form of pneumonia as well as other respiratory diseases – can increase when water systems are left unused. It is important for operators to ensure they have a plan in place for reviewing this risk and ensuring water is not left to stagnate. The bacteria can thrive at temperatures between 20°C and 50°C so ensure that the hot water across your site is hot and the cold is cold.
Laura Lythall operates the Ship Inn on the Isle of Dogs, east London, and said she has been following the advice from Cask Marque on the maintenance of cellar cooling and lines when thinking about preparing the bar for reopening.
She explained: “We have been cleaning our lines still but bi-weekly instead of weekly along with running the cooling systems and taking temperature checks to ensure all is working as it should be so, as soon as we can, we will be ready to start serving virtually straight away.”
Cask ale quality organisation Cask Marque has produced a timetable for pubs to ensure they are prepared to open up again when permitted.
Four weeks ahead of reopening, the organisation recommends publicans ensure their cellar manager’s training is up to date and staff take e-learning courses to get them up to scratch on cellar management and other aspects of draught beer.
It also pinpointed this period as the right time for operators to re-engage with their teams, consider whether recruitment is necessary and organise staff rotas for the opening week.
With customers more concerned about hygiene than ever before, it is crucial staff are educated and confident when it comes to glassware. Cask Marque guidance to operators states: “As we emerge from lockdown, the way bar staff handle glasses will come under close scrutiny. All staff must be trained to hold the bottom half of the glass when serving beer, and not touch the upper half of the glass.”
Two weeks before reopening is the best time to start getting stock ready, the organisation recommends. Ordering gas cylinders, cleaning the grills on coolers and removing empty cylinders are all things it advises publicans to have on their to-do list.
With a week to go, the cellar should be ventilated to get rid of any stale odours, beer lines should be flushed with water to check the lines are robust, and keg couplers should be cleaned. The organisation recommends externally and internally cleaning the couplers by soaking them in clean, warm water and removing loose dirt with a soft cloth. At this point, cellar cooling fans should be switched on so that the cellar can reach the optimum temperature of 11-13°C for the beer delivery.
Lythall says she will restock products so the pub’s food and drink range reflects a likely drop in trade. An example is that the pub would normally have a total of nine draught beer lines, including two ciders and two cask ales. However, Lythall says the pub will probably start off with four draught options, including one cider and will test having just one cask on offer.
She adds: “We are a tied Ei pub on all but wine, so are reliant on when Kuehne + Nagel start its services again for any draught products but we have been assured that this should be in place once we are able to open again, with Ei replacing our unbroached kegs.
“We have a good amount of bottled stock to use in the meantime.”
Its wine menu will be reduced and reworked for customers who will be using the pub’s delivery and collection services, with budget-friendly additions to compete with nearby off-licences.
Lythall adds: “We are looking forward to the chance to opening in at least some way also to support our independent suppliers, many of whom are still running and utilising the retail market as well.”
Cask Marque recommends that publicans watch out for ‘phantom’ stock, where the quantities or volume of stock have been accurately recorded, meaning you should count existing stock and record any write-offs or ullage with at least five days to go before the site is set to reopen.