A RADCLIFFE brewery is hoping for an upturn in fortunes as real ale drinkers flock back to pubs following the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Sales of hand-pulled cask beer are down 70 per cent over the last 12 months with brewers paying the price for producing a product with a shelf life of just three days once tapped.

But with pubs being allowed to reopen outside since April 12, ahead of inside trading on May 17, drinkers are being encouraged to opt for a pint of fresh cask beer from a local independent brewery next time they go to the pub.

“At the moment it’s 100 per cent weather dependent,” said Carley Friedrich, co-owner of Brightside Brewing Company, based on the Dale Industrial Park.

“In recent days we’ve had a few customers pull out due to rain but prior to that the pubs that have been able to reopen have had a really good few weeks.

“We sold 42 casks of one beer alone to The Trackside and the Buffer Stops Bar, which are operated by East Lancashire Railway.”

During the Covid-19 lockdown it’s estimated that around six million pints of cask beer from small independent breweries had to be poured away, with the brewers who made it left to foot the bill.

“In the first lockdown we had to destroy over 500 casks of beer,” said Carley. “It was one hell of a kick in the teeth. We also had to give refunds to a lot of our customers.

“On the other hand we started our retail shop, which helped us recover by selling boxes or bottles and we soon forgot about being a wholesaler and concentrated on that. Off the back of that we created a range of new beers which we probably would not have brewed before because we didn’t have the audience.

“We set up a new website, started brewing different styles of beer and talked directly to public to find out exactly what they wanted from us.

“We’ve lost countless thousands of pounds worth in turnover but at the same time we’ve created a new side of the business which we would never have done if we had not had the time to concentrate on it.”

Thankfully many of those same breweries which were struggling have now been ramping production back up ahead of pubs reopening, so by buying a pint of cask beer you’re not only supporting your local pub, but helping out small independent breweries too.

“When people weren’t able to get to the shops they really appreciated us delivering to them,” said Carley. “But they are now enjoying coming back to the brewery and seeing the products, talking to us and seeing how it is brewed. I think many of them like having the sense that this has come from just two minutes down the road. Beer has a very strong sense of place and people seem really proud of a local product like that.

“When the pubs first reopened it was a massive boon and if the weather hadn’t crumbled recently I think it would’ve been constantly busy because people are really drinking again. We’ve had people saying it’s been like New Year’s Eve.”