Millions of litres of beer is being tipped down the drain in Australia as huge quantities of the liquid gold goes off in kegs.
- Millions of schooners of beer going to waste in Australia, because pubs and clubs remain closed to large numbers of drinkers
- Larger brewers such as Lion, are hoping to put beer into on-site waste water treatment plants
- Brewers in rural Australia say the cost of not being able to sell beer in kegs is significant
It is news no beer lover wants to hear, but with pubs and clubs closed due by 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,” Mr 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.
Largest brewers in Australia facing ‘gut-wrenching’ time
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 $25 million”.
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”.
Mr Kirkegaard said the big brewers are better off disposing of beer now to avoid paying tax.
Wasting beer ‘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,” Mr Rylands said.
Further south in Tasmania, Will Tatchell owns Van Dieman Brewing at Evandale, just outside of Launceston, and is feeling the pinch of the shutdown.
“One, it’s frustrating; two, it’s annoying; and three, it’s our livelihood,” Mr 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.
“[The cost] is probably something that I try not to dwell on too much,” Mr Tatchell said.
“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!”
Latest lifting of restrictions: Where can I go for a meal?
Pubs and clubs are slowly starting to reopen to small numbers, but many businesses say it will not be economically viable to open their doors to a limited number of patrons.
- In New South Wales, cafes and restaurants reopened yesterday (May 15) — 10 patrons can sit down and dine.
- Queensland venues can open to up to 10 patrons and up to 20 in parts of the outback.
- Up to 20 Western Australian customers can have a sit-down meal in a cafe, pub or restaurant from Monday (May 18).
- In South Australia, groups of up to 10 people can dine at restaurants and cafes, with no alcohol served.
- Tasmanian restaurants and cafes will open for up to 10 people from Monday (May 18).
- Northern Territory customers can now dine in at cafes, restaurants, clubs and bars and alcohol must be consumed with food.
- Some Canberra businesses reopened to up to 10 patrons as of midnight Friday (May 15).