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As expiration dates loom, St. Louis brewers anticipate dumping draft beer

"We have a lot of draft beer that will go past its date"
Credit: SLBJ
Closures of restaurants, bars, stadiums and event venues have left many kegs of beer sitting in the dark, waiting to expire.

ST. LOUIS — As restaurant closures drag on, local breweries face a dilemma: What to do with all the draft beer no one is drinking?

“We have a lot of draft beer that will go past its date,” said Lauren Pattan, partner at the Old Bakery Beer Co. in Alton, Illinois. Although the brewery is filling growlers and selling them curbside, Pattan said, “we are still moving through way less draft beer than normal.”

That sums up the dilemma facing breweries in St. Louis and across the nation. While COVID-19 regulations allow the curbside sale of cans, bottles and growlers, the clock is ticking on countless gallons of draft beer sitting in vacant restaurants, stadiums and event venues.

Pattan, whose brewery produced nearly 1,500 barrels (over 46,000 gallons) of beer last year, isn’t sure how much expired beer she’ll end up with. The extent of the damage will depend on how long businesses remain closed.

“Hopefully if things get back to normal — normal-ish — by July, we should be OK,” said Kevin Lemp, CEO of 4 Hands Brewing Co. in St. Louis, which produced nearly 30,000 barrels last year. The brewery keeps a lean inventory and is still producing at 70% capacity. However, it still has “a decent amount” of draft inventory at its distributor, Major Brands.

“We are anticipating that some of that beer is going to go bad, and we’ll have to dump it,” Lemp said.

Schlafly Beer and Urban Chestnut Brewing Co., two of the region's other largest craft brewers, also expect to lose some their draft beer. As a relief initiative for its distributors and bar and restaurant partners, Schlafly is covering 60% of the cost of untapped, expired kegs from now through June 30. 

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