Thousands of pints of Guinness that weren’t drunk during lockdown are being used to fertilise Christmas trees instead.
Guinness’s flagship brewery at St James’s Gate in Dublin usually produces 720 million litres a year – the equivalent of 39 pints per second.
But at the start of the coronavirus shutdown, operations had to be scaled back to the bare minimum required to keep yeast stocks alive.
Pubs, bars and restaurants across Ireland and Great Britain had to return their undrunk Guinness to the brew house – but instead of them being thrown away – they are now being used to nurture Christmas and willow trees instead.
Some is also being used to create a bio-gas, which bosses hope could help power the brewery in the future.
Asked how much was handed back to them, director of operations at St James’s Gate Aidan Crowe said: “You’d probably make me cry if I started to add it all up, but it’s hundreds of thousands of kegs and 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.”
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With lockdown easing and pubs reopening, Guinness’s owners Diageo have launched a £12.6m fund to help landlords get back on their feet and make their venues “COVID-19-secure”.
In the UK, £28m of funding is being made available to help pubs implement social distancing measures.
Landlords can apply for the scheme to help pay for personal protective equipment (PPE) among other hygiene measures.
Pubs in Ireland will get £12.6m (€16m) of the cash, Diageo said.
After beer and stout stocks were reduced to their lowest levels since the 1916 Easter Rising rebellion in March, operations are ramping up again, Mr Crowe said.
While the brewery produced solely canned products for supermarkets during the lockdown, the focus is back on draft pints, he added.
He said: “We’ve got to be prepared for different eventualities. If it’s slower than we expect, we’ve got to be ready for that. If it’s significantly busier than we expect, we’ve got to be ready for that too. And we are ready, we will be ready.
“It’s a much nicer set of challenges to be trying to manage than the challenges that we had back in March when everything was being ramped down.”