Westerham Brewery is a great example of a business that has emerged from the Covid-19 pandemic stronger, continuing centuries of brewing tradition in the town.
Having a godfather with the surname of Theakston always suggested that Robert Wicks was destined to become a brewer. But a full-time career in brewing had to wait. It was not until 2004, that Robert pivoted to his early passion and revived a brewery tradition close to where he lived.
Robert initially established his brewery at Grange Farm, a National Trust property at Crockham Hill. In 2014 he looked to step up a gear by moving the brewery from Grange Farm to Westerham, a move that would require significant investment.
He put together a bid for a five-year interest free loan of £125,000 from the Kent and Medway Business Fund.
This provided the funding to help relocate the business to Westerham, to boost capacity, install a mash tun, drill a 90-metre freshwater borehole, improve staff facilities and, crucially, begin work on a Tap Room.
The business moved to the east side of Westerham, some way from the original brewery site on the western side of the town. New jobs were created, boosting the workforce to the current 21. “Without that loan, we wouldn’t have been able to do the Tap Room as we wanted,” Robert recalls.
The Tap Room has become a spectacular success, helping the brewery prosper after the lifting of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, with 160-seat capacity, 80 under cover and 80 in the beer garden. Some 5,500 customers came through the doors in the first month alone.
We are creating a year-round attraction for tourists. KCC has been a great support, especially when the banks were less supportive.
It’s been a very good use of public funds. The KMBF loan helped us to do what we wanted, and it wouldn’t have happened without it