Brewers fear for livelihood pouring millions of litres of beer down drain amid coronavirus pandemic


Global beer consumption is expected to be a massive 800 million cases down on last year, forcing breweries across the world to pour millions of litres of beer down the drain due to coronavirus restrictions.

The closure of pubs, bars, restaurants and the cancellation of major beer-drinking festivals, such as Munich’s Oktoberfest, have left many breweries fighting for their survival.

A traditional and family-owned brewery in southern Germany that has been operating for more than 400 years is just one of many businesses brought to its knees, closing its doors forever.

Rabobank grains and oilseeds senior analyst Cheryl Kalisch Gordon said the world’s beer drinkers were expected to consume 82 million hectolitres less than last year.

Analysts expect the world’s beer drinkers would consume 82 million hectolitres less beer this year.(Reuters: David W Cerny)

“The challenge will be greatest for those companies or beer producers that rely on that on-premises consumption, and typically … that would be craft beer producers.”

Australia’s craft brewers under threat

Johnny Latta standing next to barrels filled with beer.
Independent Brewers Association member Johnny Latta says many breweries will have to pour their beer down the drain because it will have passed its use-by date.(Supplied: Johnny Latta)
three men working at a brewery.
Many brewers will see their beer go to waste due to coronavirus restrictions.(Supplied: Independent Brewers Association)

The Independent Brewers Association (IBA) recent survey of more than 650 craft breweries in Australia found more than half may not survive without Government assistance.

IBA board member Johnny Latta said some brewers lost 70 per cent of their revenue overnight while others based in regional towns had lost all their revenue.

“Unfortunately, there will be a lot of beer that just goes to waste, because it is ageing, and fresh beer is what everyone wants.”

Tom Freeman, who owns Wilkadene Woolshed Brewery in South Australia’s Riverland, said they had to find creative new avenues to stay afloat.

“We rely a lot on tourism, that really was a big stress and the financial impact we will feel for many years, I suppose,” Mr Freeman said.

He believed they were lucky to be able to package beer onsite and offer free deliveries to customers in metropolitan and regional areas, but the brewery lost about 75 per cent of its income in April alone.

France destroys 10 million litres beer

In France, a country with more than 2,000 breweries, the Brewery Union said 10 million litres of beer — equivalent to four Olympic-sized swimming pools — would have to be destroyed, with the cancellation of all major events before September due to the pandemic.

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“Brewers think it will be too late in June or July to consume their beers brewed last winter … they prefer to collect and destroy the products for a best guarantee of quality,” brewery union Brasseurs de France said in a statement.

Meanwhile Europe’s largest beer-producing nation, Germany, saw most of its 9,700 annual beer-related festivals cancelled leaving many breweries on the verge of ruin.

The world’s biggest beer festival — Oktoberfest — celebrated in Munich since 1810, saw visitors drink 7.8 million litres of beer in 2019, but not this year.

Press spokesman for the German Brewers’ Association Marc-Oliver Huhnholz said the pandemic had a dramatic impact on the country’s 1,500 breweries.

Full beer tent at Oktoberfest.
The world’s biggest beer festival, Oktoberfest, has been cancelled this year due to the pandemic.(Reuters: Kai Pfaffenbach)

“We still see a fatal domino effect: the conflagration in gastronomy is spreading to the brewing industry.

“We share the assessment of the German HOTREC — without additional government aid, irreparable economic damage is at risk … many breweries will not survive this existential crisis without emergency aid.”

Centuries-old brewery to shut down

Amid the first losses due to the coronavirus crisis is one of Germany’s oldest breweries.

Operating since 1617, the family-owned Wernecker Bierbrauerei in Bavaria, that survived a revolution, crisis and two world wars, had to give up the fight.

Christine Lang reading a letter.
Brewery manager Christine Lang said the closure of their brewery was heartbreaking for her family.(Supplied: Wernecker Bierbrauerei)

The brewery’s closure in September will not only have an enormous impact on the family and its 26 employees but will also take away part of local history and tradition in the small town of Werneck in the brewery-rich state of Bavaria.

Family member and brewery manager Christine Lang said the decision to stop brewing was heartbreaking.

The family business lost most of its revenue overnight when coronavirus restrictions were put in place.

A horse with a trailer and beer kegs.
After more than 400 years of operation the Wernecker Bierbrauerei is forced to close its doors.(Supplied: Wernecker Bierbrauerei)

Ms Lang said they decided to continue running the business until September in the hope of selling all of its beer.



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