The Morning Advertiser (MA) was contacted by a number of publicans who claimed they had been supplied with beer from Heineken that appeared to have been an “old” keg with a new best before date on it.
A spokesperson for Heineken UK said: “Making sure pubs can be up and running safely with top quality beer is our top priority.
“The keg beer that exists in our network has been kept in optimum conditions and what’s more, has been benchmarked against reference samples to ensure it is still top quality.
“Ordinarily, 95% of kegs are returned to us within three weeks of filling, to be cleaned and filled again. Dates on kegs help licensees with stock rotation – it is a system that has worked for many years but given the current situation, it has allowed us to reassess."
The spokesperson added: “We know our beer and ciders in keg are as stable as can and bottle products, which have a best before date of up to a year.
“We have been very transparent about extending the best before date on our kegs. We are replacing all unbroached kegs of Heineken product for free, with absolute certainty the beer is the highest quality.
“It is paramount for us, our customers and our consumers and we would never settle for second best when it comes to quality.
“Going forward, all our kegs will have the longer best before date on.”
However, the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) chief executive James Calder hit out at Heineken, saying it relabelling was “a breach of trust”.
Calder told MA: “If the global brewers are relabelling old kegs of beer and with new labels and changing best before dates, this is a huge breach of trust with publicans and punters, who in many cases, have been told kegs are being replaced ‘new for old’. In this case, they are not.
“They are replacing old for old. I’m sure beer drinkers don’t expect their first pint back in a pub to be from a keg that has been sat out in the sun for three months during lockdown.
“Quality beer is a fresh product and should be stored cool and drank within a relatively short period of time. Just like a fresh loaf of bread, when it comes to beer, a longer shelf life does not equate with better taste.”
Calder outlined how during the lockdown period, brewers have thrown away a significant amount of beer and are now producing fresh brews.
He added: “Independent breweries produce quality, flavoursome beer and sell it with a shelf life that ensures the produce is consumed at its absolute best.
“During lockdown, independent breweries have had to dispose of thousands of gallons of beer and are only now beginning to deliver fresh beer into pubs – the idea that global brewers are simply shipping the same kegs of beer from before lockdown back into pubs will likely come as a huge shock to beer drinkers and publicans alike.”