Brewery rises to the challenge

A family-run brewery came up with a successful home delivery service during lockdown – with demand for its beers coming from across the country.

Slater’s Ales is based in Stafford but has strong links to the North West. All of the family originally come from Preston and it still has many ties with the area.

Company director Vicki Slater says the business is now looking to invest in its own automated bottling plant as it looks towards the future.

She explains how the brewery had to come up with a new business model when lockdown struck and its hospitality outlets closed their doors.

Vicki says: “Pre-pandemic 95 per cent of our business was supplying pubs, restaurants and on trade customers covering the majority of the England and Wales.

“On March 19 we lost all of that. Overnight we had to come up with a new model for the company.

“We have always had a small online presence and over that weekend we could see the orders start to pick up. From that moment we knew where we had to go to ensure the business not only survived but thrived through the period.”

Every member of staff, including those working in its own bar, was put on furlough.

Vicki and head brewer and managing director Andrew Slater started to push the online options for home delivery on social media.

Vicki says: “The majority of home deliveries were sent out within 48 hours and we started to get orders for nationwide deliveries.”

The brewery used Preston-based InXpress to get its nationwide deliveries out the next day, an approach that ensured repeat customers.

Andrew started to slowly increase brewing capabilities and Slater’s started to brew different beers for bag in box and bottled beers. Its small hand-bottling plant at the brewery was in full flow most weeks.

Looking to the future, Slater’s says it is uncertain how long it will take the pub trade to recover.

In the meantime, it has taken the decision to look at funding options to create its own automated bottling plant to stop reliance on external companies.

It has also joined forces with Virgin Wines and its beers are now listed on the website with new brews are in the pipeline specifically for Virgin customers.

Vicki says: “We have learnt that, like many other businesses that faced a challenging time, change can be for the good and that it can bring its own rewards”.

If you wish to try Slater’s multi award winning ales for yourself the company has a special offer for all WNJ clients.

You can receive 10 per cent off all orders through October. Just use the code WNJ10 at checkout through the website