“We are now getting all the tap and technical installations ready for use,” Peter Buelens of Royal Swinkels Family Brewers – the brewer of Palm, Rodenbach and Cornet – told VRT. “We learned a lot from the first lockdown. If the bars were to open on 1 May, the tap systems will already be ready for use.”
However, the tap systems are only part of the story, as enough beer is needed as well.
“We have always continued to brew, but to a smaller extent,” said Buelens. “A brewery has to keep going to stay good. We have taken precautions that we certainly do not have a stock break. We also learned that from the first lockdown.”
Smaller breweries, such as the Omer Vander Ghinste brewery in Bellegem near Kortrijk, took similar precautions, but due to their smaller size, they need clarity sooner.
The brewery has a strategic stock but would need to know by mid-April at the latest whether or not the reopening on 1 May will take place, otherwise, they fear a stock outage.
“Our stocks are minimal. We will only start brewing in full when we are sure about the date when the bars and restaurants will open again,” Omer-Gery Vander Ghinste told VRT.
“The industry has been closed for six months, but most barrels of lager only have a shelf life of six months,” Omer-Jean Vander Ghinste said. “We now collect the old beer -free of charge- from the pubs.”
Additionally, the brewers are also facing a complex logistical puzzle, according to them.
“If we are told a week or a fortnight in advance that they can open, then we are ready,” said Buelens. “But if the beer sellers all order at the same time, we will have to bend over backwards to get those beers on site.”