Guinness uses leftover stout to fertilise Christmas trees during lockdown

Thousands of unused kegs of the famous dark Irish stout have been used to fertilise Christmas trees during lockdown.

The lockdown imposed to help tackle coronavirus has been particularly hard on pubs and restaurants.

While both are expected to reopen on July 4 in England, a day later than Ireland, a lot of alcohol will already have gone to waste.

However, Guinness, who reduced operations at its St James’ Gate brewery in Dublin to the minimal level, for the first time since the 1916 Easter Rebellion as it fought to keep stocks alive, found a way to put its out of date stout to good use.

The firm retrieved millions of litres of stout beer and ale from pubs and bars that had closed their doors, and repurposed it to fertilise Christmas trees as part of an environmentally friendly forestry project.

To support its on-trade customers during the early stages of lockdown, Guinness collected kegs containing millions of litres of stout, beer and ale that would have otherwise gone to waste.

Aidan Crowe, director of operations at the brewery told PA: “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.

“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.”

To support its on-trade customers, Guinness collected containing millions of litres of stout, beer and ale that would have otherwise gone to waste. (Louis Hansel, Unsplash)

After collecting the kegs of undrunk beer, Guinness “decant” and “disperse” the liquid “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,” he said.

Mr Crowe stated that some of the beer had been “diverted through to anaerobic digesters, where it produces a bio-gas”, which he explained could be a “suitable fuel source” for the brewery in the future.

The director of operations emphasised that making sure Guinness manages its beer in an environmentally sustainable way is “critically important” to the business and Ireland.

When asked how much beer was returned, he said he would “probably cry” if he began calculating the full sum.

“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,” he said.

The main brew house at St James’ Gate produces 7.2 million hectolitres (720 million litres) a year which amounts to around 39 pints a second all year round.

Ordinarily, St James brews 2.5 million pints of Guinness every day and 1.5 million pints of other beer and stout.

Diageo, the firm that owns Guinness, recently announced a $100m (£80m) fund called “Raising the Bar” to help pubs pay for new hygiene and safety measures to meet the guidelines set out to open properly amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The firm has sent €14m (£12.67m) of the fund to cover pubs in Ireland.

Preparing for what may be a new world post-pandemic, Mr Crowe said that Guinness has to “be prepared for different eventualities” as lockdown eases.

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