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Lockdown: what to do with waste beer

Added: Sunday, April 5th 2020


There have been thousands of requests on social media from publicans and brewers anxious to know what to do with unused beer during the coronavirus and how to claim for lost income and duty.

The chairman of a leading regional brewer offers the following advice – and he wishes to remain anonymous as there’s only skeleton staff at the brewery and he is spending a lot of time phoning the British Beer & Pub Association and other regional brewers for advice and is not in a position to handle emails or phone calls on the subject.

•At our brewery we have circa £200,000 of cash tied up in duty in beer going off in pub cellars. It’s a material issue!

•It’s estimated there are 2.5 to 3 million casks and kegs in cellars with beer in them.

•Normally, to reclaim duty, beer can only be destroyed on site by a nominated brewery professional.

•Removal of full containers can be done only by two-man crews from cellars – that’s not allowed at present due to social distancing.

•Cask disposal is straight-forward but what to do with pressurised kegs that have the potential to be lethal in untrained hands?

•If every pub pours its beer down the drain at the same time it will create havoc with local sewerage plants, especially in rural areas.

•We’ve had relaxation of the rules on beer disposal from HMRC but the practicalities are being worked through and discussed further.

•I’ll keep you posted.

UPDATE 14 April:-The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has released HMRC-approved guidance to help destroy unsellable beer without an authorised company representative from a brewery or supplier present.

Designated pub staff can now destroy beer remotely, provided they have permission from the owning brewer and follow BBPA protocols. The change in the rules allows for duty paid on unsold beer to be recovered and for the brewer to pass the reclaimed duty back to the pub customer.

Members of staff must have proof of permission to destroy beer from the owning brewer – e.g. an email – that includes the product’s name and beer style, strength and identification of all container sizes. Time, date and location, the pub name and address must be recorded alongside the name and position of the staff member who destroyed the beer, with confirmation he or she was authorised by the person responsible for the pub.