16 May 2020

'It's un-Australian and heartbreaking': beer dumped due to pub closures

5:51 pm on 16 May 2020

Millions of litres of beer are being tipped down the drain in Australia as huge quantities of the liquid gold goes off in kegs.

No caption.

Beer has a fairly short shelf life, an industry commentator says. Photo: 123RF

It is news no beer lover wants to hear, but with pubs and clubs closed due to coronavirus restrictions and most not due to reopen to large numbers any time soon, the product is "starting to come up against some of its use-by dates".

The biggest brewers are trying to repurpose the beer by putting some of it through their wastewater treatment plants, but cannot guarantee some of the product will not be simply dumped.

Beer educator and commentator Matt Kirkegaard said he has never seen the industry in such a slump.

"One of the things that we don't really think about a lot with beer is having a shelf life, and it's a fairly short shelf life at that," Kirkegaard said.

"The beer that they [brewers] haven't been able to get into consumers' hands in other ways is probably, unfortunately, going to go down the drain. I've seen estimations of millions of litres.

"It seems very un-Australian and certainly heartbreaking, it's probably even worse than a beer truck falling over on a highway!"

Situation 'gut-wrenching'

Millions of would-be schooners have been going stale since pubs and breweries closed to drinkers when coronavirus restrictions tightened in late March.

One of the largest brewers in the nation, Lion, said the closures had been "gut-wrenching".

Lion has credited venues for the cost of their unused kegs, which a spokesperson said has "totalled nearly $A25 million ($NZ27.02m)".

The ABC understands about 90,000 kegs - or more than 10 million schooners of beer - will need to be emptied by the company.

It is understood the brewer will aim to put the beer into its on-site wastewater treatment plants to produce biogas, but there are no guarantees some of the product will not also just be tipped down the drain.

The country's other major brewer, Carlton and United Breweries, is refunding its customers' unopened kegs and providing pubs with bottles to fill beer from kegs.

A spokesperson for the company said "it's difficult to quantify how much liquid will go to waste".

Kirkegaard said the big brewers are better off disposing of beer now to avoid paying tax.

"There is so much money tied up in government excise that beer is actually worth more going down the drain and getting the excise back than if they hold onto it and try to sell it later," he said.

A group of friends drink beer at a bar.

With limited socialising, big brewers are better off disposing of beer now to avoid paying tax, a commentator says. Photo: 123RF

Wasting beer also 'heartbreaking' for smaller brewers

Beer wastage is a painful topic for brewer Ben Rylands, who owns the New England Brewing Company in the small town of Uralla, more than five hours north-west of Sydney.

"It either has to be dumped or sold, there's no in-between … I'm sure a lot of the beer will end up going down the drain," Rylands said.

"Obviously it's financial pain, but we're very invested in what we're doing, so it'd be pretty heartbreaking."

Further south in Tasmania, Will Tatchell owns Van Dieman Brewing at Evandale, just outside of Launceston, and he is feeling the pinch of the shutdown.

"One, it's frustrating; two, it's annoying; and three, it's our livelihood," Tatchell said.

He is adapting his business model by moving beer from kegs into stubbies, but that is costly because he pays an increased excise rate, as well as buying in bottles, labels, caps and cartons.

"A rough estimate, it's probably in excess of $25,000 for the period of time that this has occurred.

"There are means and ways about it, it's just thinking forward, thinking positively and staying ahead of the curve - pardon the pun in this situation!"

Stock photo.

Craft beer brewers are also facing a painful situation. Photo: 123rf.com


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