Belgium’s brewers have launched a cry of alarm: “Bring back your empty bottles as soon as possible”.
The call was led this week by brewery De Halve Maan in Bruges, makers of Brugse Zot and Straffe Hendrik.
“We have ten thousand crates and barrels out there in circulation,” said CEO Xavier Vanneste. “People can really help us out by sending their empty crates and barrels back to the brewery as quickly as possible.” The brewery also called on wholesalers and distributors to empty their warehouses of old crates and barrels.
“Our stock of bottles is enormously important to us,” said Thomas Lauwaert of brewery Roman in Oudenaarde in East Flanders, speaking on VRT radio. “We have to make sure we have enough empties coming back, or we have a problem. Bottles are delivered to us, washed here and immediately refilled. We go through something like 30,000 bottles an hour, it’s enormous.”
The problem particularly affects breweries that export; sending a crate of beer to China and getting it back takes a lot longer than the round trip to Roeselare, for example.
“It goes in waves,” Lauwaert said. “Especially for brewers who export a lot. Some of your bottles go off abroad, and they’re returned either later or not at all. We work mainly in the Belgian market, so for us there’s less of an issue.” Roman, one of the oldest Belgian brewers still operating, makes beers like Gentse Strop and Ename.
“Still we have to keep a close eye on things. On the one hand we take care that our beer is as fresh as possible, so we try to keep stocks low. On the other, we want to be sure to have enough bottles on hand. It’s a balancing act. Our stock of bottles is enormously important to us. In many ways it’s one of our raw materials.”
“Empties is a circular system, a very positive system,” Vanneste said, “But everything stands or falls by the rotation of crates. If anyone has an empty crate of Brugse Zot lying in their cellar, please send it back as quickly as possible to the brewery [or to the usual retail outlet]. That would really help us out.”