| 10.5°C Belfast

Guinness brewing up big return to pubs as 'hundreds of thousands' of unused kegs repurposed to fertilise Christmas trees

Close

Beer taster Stephen Mulligan tests the quality

Beer taster Stephen Mulligan tests the quality

PA

Logistics manager Colin Griffey with kegs of Guinness ready for distribution at the St James’ Gate Guinness brewery in Dublin yesterday

Logistics manager Colin Griffey with kegs of Guinness ready for distribution at the St James’ Gate Guinness brewery in Dublin yesterday

PA

Lids are placed on kegs

Lids are placed on kegs

PA

The kegs are stacked

The kegs are stacked

PA

Beer taster Stephen Mulligan tests the quality

Hundreds of thousands of unused kegs of Guinness have been repurposed to fertilise Christmas trees during the coronavirus lockdown.

The forestry project is one of several environmentally friendly disposal routes the famous Irish brewery employed as it brought back millions of litres of stout, beer and ale from closed pubs and bars.

At the start of the lockdown in Ireland, Guinness reduced operations at its St James' Gate brewery in Dublin to the minimal level required to keep its yeast stocks alive.

It was the first time that had happened since the 1916 Easter Rising rebellion in the city.

Now production has ramped up once again as pubs and bars across Ireland, the UK and beyond prepare to start welcoming customers back.

Close

Lids are placed on kegs

Lids are placed on kegs

PA

Lids are placed on kegs

Anticipating the challenges the drinks industry is set to encounter in the era of social distancing, Guinness owner Diageo has announced a US$100m 'Raising the Bar' fund to help pubs pay for new hygiene and safety measures - €14m of which is being made available on the island of Ireland.

The PA news agency has been behind the scenes at St James' Gate to witnesses the scaling up of operations.

Aidan Crowe, the director of operations at the brewery, said Guinness decided in the early days of lockdown to support its on-trade customers by retrieving the kegs that were set to go undrunk due to the closure of hospitality outlets.

"It's been a tough time in the brewery but it's been a much tougher time if you're trying to run on-trade outlets in this part of the world," he told PA.

"That's why it was very, very important right from the start of the lockdown to support the on-trade as much as we could. That's why we took the decision to bring back all of the beer from the on-trade."

He continued: "Basically what we do is we take all the keg beer back, we decant it and we disperse the product through a number of environmentally sustainable routes.

"The vast majority of the beer goes to willow and Christmas tree plantations, it's used as nutrients in those farms.

"We've also diverted some product through to anaerobic digesters, where it produces a biogas.

"Actually, we're quite optimistic that, in the long term, biogas can be a suitable fuel source for us to use here in the brewery.

"And then we've also diverted some of the product for composting.

"So, it's an unprecedented problem for us to have and we wanted to ensure that in terms of how we manage that and manage the beer it was environmentally sustainable, because that's so critically important, not just for our business, but obviously for the country as a whole as well."

Asked how many litres had been returned, Mr Crowe said: "You'd probably make me cry if I started to add it all up, but it's hundreds of thousands of kegs.

Close

The kegs are stacked

The kegs are stacked

PA

The kegs are stacked

"We've still got some products to decant and we've still got some markets that haven't finished returning their beer to us. So, a lot of beer and a lot of kegs."

Belfast Telegraph