OPERATIONS at a major Guinness site in Runcorn stepped up at the start of lockdown, despite its HQ in Ireland winding down.

At the start of the lockdown in Ireland, Guinness reduced operations at its St James's Gate brewery in Dublin to the minimal level required to keep its yeast stocks alive.

It was the first time that had happened since the 1916 Easter Rising rebellion in the city.

St James's Gate's three largest markets are Great Britain, Ireland and North America but overall it distributes to 130 countries worldwide.

All stout, beer and ale produced at the height of lockdown was used only for canned products.

So while the kegging operation at St James's Gate ground to a near halt, canning and bottle operations in Belfast and Runcorn actually stepped up production, to meet the added demand from the off-sales trade.

Mr Crowe said the biggest challenge the brewery now faces is the uncertainty about what demand will look like in the first few months of eased restrictions.

"We've got to be prepared for different eventualities," he said.

"If it's slower than we expect, we've got to be ready for that. If it's significantly busier than we expect, we've got to be ready for that too. And we are ready, we will be ready.

"It's a much nicer set of challenges to be trying to manage than the challenges that we had back in March when everything was being ramped down."

Now production has ramped up once again as pubs and bars across Ireland, the UK and beyond prepare to start welcoming customers back.