AB InBev, the world’s largest brewer, last week dumped millions of litres of beer into the River Meuse from its brewery in Jupille by Liege.
The beer was brewed six months ago and set up in kegs, which have a sell-by date of six months. Unfortunately along came the lockdown of the restaurants and cafes, which are the only clients for kegged beer. And since it will be May 1 at the earliest – and perhaps not even then – before the horeca industry opens up again – the brewery had no option but to dispose of the beer.
The operation takes place according to the regulations on environmental safety, the brewery assured. InBev has its own purification plant. “Once it has reached the appropriate environmental standards, the beer is discharged into the Meuse,” explained brewery manager Steven Van Belleghem.
The kegs concerned have been coming back to the brewery for some time now, as the pubs and cafes who ordered then saw no opportunity to use them. In the end, the brewery had no option but to empty them so as to have clean kegs to prepare for the re-opening, replacing the unopened kegs with fresh beer free of charge.
“It was AB InBev’s choice,” said Van Belleghem. “We have two keg lines that have been practically at a standstill for months. It was therefore decided to use one of these lines to empty the kegs.
“We could have had it done by an outside company but, in these times of Covid, it was important for us to do it internally. While we produce less, it allows us to give work to five to ten of our employees and thus avoid having to put them out of work.”
The beer in question is of three types: Jupiler, Stella Artois and Leffe – the three InBev beers most commonly sold on draught.
According to the Belgian Brewers Federation, last year saw 445 million glasses of beer go unsold in bars and restaurants because of lockdown, the majority of them representing keg beer. The Jupille brewery alone produces 400-500,000 litres of beer a day for the industry.