It's about the beer
Gina Miller and Bill Keeper
As you know this never ending coronavirus pandemic has stranded unused beer in stadiums,
concert halls, restaurants and bars. That meant brewers and distributors are taking sizable losses
and had to figure out what to do with it all. The answer is not as simple as you might think.
Just about nobody, especially us wants to see good beer go to waste — but should bad beer be
dumped? It’s a question many breweries have been facing after months of slow sales have caused
backlogged beer supplies to pass their peak or become outright spoiled. All that sitting in kegs and
cans has taken a toll for sure.
From what I understand many places are dumping beer especially IPAs. I know you might disagree
Bill, but after 80 days or so most beers won't taste quite right. Every IPA will lose a significant
amount of its bitterness and most all of its hope aromatics.. I'm not saying it tastes bad just that a
once great IPA will be more like a malty pale ale. That also goes for those hazy session IPAs that
I've seen experience similar changes in less than two months of storage.
Of course I know that "spoiled” beer is not dangerous. Indeed, it is often argued that beer is safer if
not healthier, to drink than water. Bill, I've heard you often recount the legend that early settlers
from England carried beer with them to North America as a form of hydration, since water could
become tainted with dangerous pathogens but beer,shielded by alcohol, hops and other herbs,
could not. All of which means places are dumping a still drinkable product. That seems dumb but
there's more to it.
The Brewers Association recently posted a blog article instructing brewers what to do with beer
suffering negative effects of aging. The post warned craft brewers that “disposing of the beer may
be the best decision, even if financially difficult” since selling beer with defects “can result in
profound reputational risk. In their mind reputation is more important than any possible earnings
from selling outdated beer. It's hard to disagree with that. To me it seems logical to sacrifice a little
beer and start with a fresh batch.
That's it from me, chug-a-lug, Bill.....see you next time!
Hello Gina -
Did I read that you said dumping beer is a good thing? Haven't I told you time and time again that
beer is for drinking, not dumping? Have you forgotten our mantra that there is no such thing as
bad beer but that some beers are better than others? Just teasing, Gina. You do make a good
cas that although expired beer won't kill you, but it doesn't taste very good and nobody wants to
buy a flat, funky tasting beer, especially me.
Rather than just dump it I guess breweries could distill it down for products like hand sanitizer,
compost it, or call up the local wastewater treatment facility to have carted off. They might even
be able to take still fresh draft beer and repackage it into cans, but it's not easy. The process
takes three to four days, involving constant measurements for damaging exposure to oxygen and
bacterial infection, before the brewery cans beers .
Gina, of course it’s just plain sad to trash what would otherwise be drinkable. But there are other
issues too you didn't mention. Should bars and restaurants have to pay for these now out-of-
code beers that they weren’t able to serve? Are they entitled to a free replacement keg when
business gets back to usual? How should distributors tackle the logistical challenge of picking up
kegs that are usually empty but are now still full of beer? Who pays for these reverse shipping
costs? Who disposes of the old beer, the distributor or the brewery?And what about taxes that
breweries have already paid on these now-useless beers? And the costs of disposing of them?
And just for the record I should mention you can’t just pour beer down the drain. There’s proper
pH levels that need to be attained before it can be safely disposed so it doesn’t mess up the
municipal water supply.
Making things worse was the fact that while there’s no ideal time for a pandemic to strike, the
timing of coronavirus was especially bad because bars and restaurants were stocked up with
extra kegs in preparation for March Madness, opening day for baseball and St. Patrick’s Day.
Small craft breweries were especially hit hard by this since the latest statistic I saw said they sell
40 percent of their beer on draft.
I know what you're thinking Gina, why don't the breweries just give away that stale or soon to be
stale beer since that's better than throwing it out. It's actually not better since giving it away
would effectively lower the demand for beer at a time when breweries need more sales not less.
However it has been done but not often. I read about one brewery in Germany who did just that.
Unable to deliver to hotels and restaurants closed due to coronavirus restrictions, they gave
away some 2,600 litres (690 gallons) of beer. It is interesting to note they only did it once.
Another reason for not giving it away is that many breweries have been able to take a tax or
insurance deduction on dumped beer. In addition some have insurance policies that will cover
destroyed kegged beer under disaster relief clauses.
All I can say is that the way for all craft beer fans to help the small brewers is to simply drink more
beer. I'll do my part and I have a feeling Gina will too.
Here's looking at you, Gina