Empowering the Freelance Economy

How a Wiltshire ‘Beer Ambulance’ saved a pub and united a community 

Wiltshire Ale House delivers smiles over lockdown in 'Sheddie, the Pewsey Beer Ambulance'
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Gordon Edwards and his wife Sam may run the smallest pub in Wiltshire, but that hasn’t stopped them from launching a grand idea that has been delivering much more than craft ales in lockdown: smiles and an entrepreneurial spirit.

In the Wiltshire village of Pewsey, it is not uncommon to see large tractors parked on the High Street as farmhands pop in for fish and chips after a day in the fields. But in the Spring of 2020, something more eye-catching was spotted: A Tuk Tuk, embellished with Union Jack bunting, parked outside the village’s smallest pub, The Shed Alehouse.

For relatively new West Country imports, yours truly included, such village scenes are endearing and reassuring reminders that the local landscape will continue to be painted with the very fields of wheat and barley that go into the local ales and gins so many of us have grown to love.

When the pubs and alehouses were forced to close in the first lockdown, the economic knock-on effect was two-fold. Farmers would have to re-think their crops and brewers and pubs would have to find a way to keep the barrels of ale and cider flowing.

For the rural villages and towns surrounding Pewsey, home to two microbrewers- Three Castles Brewery and The Shed Alehouse, the solution for libations in a lockdown came in the guise of a Tuk Tuk, now dubbed Sheddie, The Pewsey Beer Ambulance.

In May 2020, The Shed Alehouse owners and managers, Gordon and Sam Edwards, prepped Sheddie the Tuk Tuk, for mail order deliveries of ale, cider and gin to residents in Pewsey and surrounding villages.

Since then, customers have been putting in orders via email once a week. From the warm comments on the pub’s Facebook page, it’s clear that the Tuk Tuk is delivering more than craft ales and gins, it’s delivering smiles and an entrepreneurial spirit through all the rural communities it drives through.

Each barrel of craft ale sold by The Shed holds 72 pints, yet just 65 are drinkable, according to a local news report. The pints are distributed to customers in recyclable plastic containers, all of which are first unpacked and quarantined for 7 days before delivery. The containers are delivered with tamper-proof tops.

These additional COVID-safe measures provide customers with added comfort, according to Gordon and Sam, who make deliveries wearing masks and gloves with local Ramsbury distillery hand sanitiser at the ready.

The ‘Pewsey Beer Ambulance’ also known as Sheddie the Tuk Tuk

“I wouldn’t say we have thrived, but definitely survived during the pandemic,” said Gordon Edwards. “Our property’s landlord has been extremely supportive and we have been able to receive government support and relief to keep us going. After the initial lockdown, our deliveries soared, then dipped once pubs re-opened. We had a period where orders plateaued, but soon started to sell-out again.”

Trading since 2015, Gordon and his wife Sam have created a social hub for the village and canal boat tourists that roam in from the Kennet & Avon Canal and nearby Pewsey Wharf. The social aspect, for now, has ventured online to their Facebook page until the pub owners can open to the public again.

Followers and avid delivery customers can choose from a variety of local ales, ciders, vodkas and gin, supplied by the likes of Ramsbury Brewery, Twisted Brewing Co., Stonehenge Ales, and Glastonbury, plus Gordon has also put his hand to brewing his own ale, Shed Loads.

Edwards said that in the winter months deliveries will be made by car or van to accommodate the colder weather, larger orders and customers that live outside Pewsey.

Not one to grumble, Edwards has advice for fellow self-employed businesses trading in the hospitality sector: “Hold in there. Don’t give up. Sure, it is disheartening doing work in a pandemic. But I am keeping positive and taking my hand to refurbish the Shed when I have this time on my hands. Older generations lived through two world wars. This is not the end of the world. The world will be the same again.”

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