Beer Blog

Sam Smith’s pubs running out of Old Brewery Bitter

It’s not often that you see the small brewing town of Tadcaster on national news! Unfortunately the town, along with many other unfortunate residents of riverside settlements across the UK was hit by Boxing day flooding causing the ancient bridge over the river Wharfe to collapse. The result, a township now as effectively divided as cold war Germany, with a ten mile drive from one side to the other.

I genuinely feel for the residents of Tadcaster (and elsewhere) many who have suffered damage, loss and significant inconvenience. Even Humphrey Smith, owner of Samuel Smiths brewery, will have to make a significant journey from his home everyday to reach his office which is on the other side of the river. That’s not the least of his worries though, as the floods caused significant damage when it inundated Yorkshires oldest brewery and flooded the brewery yard.

Now there is very little official information and I have tried contacting the brewery without getting any reply or return calls from my messages. However, piecing together what I can from local landlords and contacts, it appears the existing stocks of cask conditioned Old Brewery Bitter and all their wooden casks have become contaminated by floodwater. Because of this none of the Sam’s pubs have had a delivery of OBB since before Christmas. Many are now running out of OBB and the Sam Smith’s forum reports the Sun Inn at Long Marston being without OBB on new years eve. My own local is on the last eighteen and I’ve spoken to several landlords who have been told not to expect OBB anytime soon. Thankfully I’m none too bothered as I always drink Taddy Lager or Stout, both of which are decent drinks, and the word from licensees is that everything apart from OBB will still be available and delivered to your Sam’s local. The only perplexing thing is why is the OBB contaminated, but not anything else? Okay it’s the only product they do in wooden casks, but the casks keep the beer in pretty well, so why don’t they keep the flood water out? Why isn’t production and delivery of other draught products affected? Call me cynical, but I feel something’s just not right here?

The big question for me is when will Sam’s production be back to normal? I know they brew OBB once a week, but before they send any out they will have an awful lot of casks to clean and sterilise and that’s after they have got the brewery yard back to some semblance of order.

If you want some idea of what the current devastation might look like there are pics and videos of the brewery yard on the BBC News website from the last big flood in 2012. Frankly, I’m surprised that news reporters haven’t gone with this story. If they do pick up on it, tell people you read it here first!


4 replies »

  1. The problem is that the wooden casks will have absorbed filthy water rendering the inner beer unsaleable whereas all their other keg products are sealed metal containers which are impervious and just need an external clean.


    • I sort of get that the wood soaks the water up Glen, but if the beer doesn’t come out from the inside how come the floodwater will get in? If your premise is correct though, there will be an awful amount of very thorough cleaning and presumably drying of the outside of the casks? If this is the case then they might be out of production for a while? Presumably all the Sam’s pubs will have to temporarily come out of The Good Beer Guide, until they have real ale again???


  2. Presumably Sam’s have plenty of uncontaminated casks currently out in their pubs so, while they may need to restrict distribution of OBB for a while, they don’t need to withdraw it entirely.

    I’d guess they have fewer than ten pubs in the GBG anyway, so from their point of view it wouldn’t be much of a loss.


    • Just seen on Facebook that my local has now had a delivery of OBB (don’t know how much) so things might be looking up at the brewery. I will pop out at teatime for a spot of fact finding!


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