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Why a pub poured 60 gallons of beer down the drain

PUBLISHED: 16:54 01 April 2020 | UPDATED: 16:49 02 April 2020

Phil Cutter, landlord of the Murderers at Timberhill. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Phil Cutter, landlord of the Murderers at Timberhill. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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A pub landlord in Norwich has been forced to pour 60 gallons of beer down the drain due to measures to curtail coronavirus.

The Murderers/Gardeners Arms pub on Timberhill, Norwich, which has seen beer wastage due to coronavirus social distancing. Photo ; Steve AdamsThe Murderers/Gardeners Arms pub on Timberhill, Norwich, which has seen beer wastage due to coronavirus social distancing. Photo ; Steve Adams

Phil Cutter, landlord of The Murderers on Timber Hill, said the biggest quantity of beer he had previously thrown away was around four gallons.

Mr Cutter is not alone - the wastage is because the real ale he stocks has an optimum quality shelf life of around one week and, with the pub shut for the foreseeable future because of the pandemic, it has now become undrinkable, a situation which many landlords will face.

He said: “The beer had been sat there for two weeks so it had gone off. I had needed something to do so I thought I would get rid of it and give it all a good clean. There was no easy way to do it so the beer was thrown down the drain and it was difficult to know what to do as I don’t normally get wasted beer.

“It was sad to throw it away as someone has spent a lot of time brewing it and put a lot of love into the beer. In any case wastage is sad but to see that quantity thrown down the drain is even sadder.”

New measures means pubs can dispose of wasted beer without a brewery representative while social distancing is in place. Picture: Getty Images / iStockphotoNew measures means pubs can dispose of wasted beer without a brewery representative while social distancing is in place. Picture: Getty Images / iStockphoto

Normally, if landlords dispose of large quantities of beer it must be overseen by a brewery representative.

This is because duty - known as ullage in the pub industry - does not need to be paid if beer is thrown away with good reason, such as spoiling.

But due to social distancing and government guidelines to fight coronavirus, brewery representatives are no longer making visits.

Instead brewers, under a new temporary measure introduced by the HMRC, can appoint the publican or an agreed person to get rid of spoilt beer.

If beer is correctly disposed of duty known as ullage does not have to be paid. Picture: Getty Images /iStockphotoIf beer is correctly disposed of duty known as ullage does not have to be paid. Picture: Getty Images /iStockphoto

But brewers must keep evidence of the wastage, with the government accepting video as a form of proof.

Mr Cutter shared footage of the disposal at the Murderers and said: “Lots of people can’t bring themselves to do it. If lockdown lasts for three months all the beer in my cellar will go out of date. Beer kegs have a shelf life of not much more than three months while my other kegs will last for one month maximum.”

Martin Ward, vice chairman of the Norwich and District branch of CAMRA, said: “From a drinking perspective it is a shame but from a business perspective you’ve got to get rid of beer as the lines will get clogged up - and there’s a lot of beer sitting in pubs in the current situation.”


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