Pubs hit by beer shortages amid 'catastrophic' supply issues

17 August 2021

Pubs in Scotland are facing beer shortages due to supply chain issues, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) has warned.

The trade body said some pubs faced delivery shortfalls of up to 75%, and many of its members had experienced delays and cancellations with orders placed with brewers and other supply chain operators.

The warnings come as Belhaven owner Greene King and Heineken said labour shortages were impacting their ability to distribute beer in Scotland. 

Colin Wilkinson, managing director of the SLTA, described the widespread supply problems as "a catastrophe".

Wilkinson said: "In many cases packaged goods are not being delivered and we have reports of pub and bar owners travelling the length of the country to source supplies.

“We have also heard reports of the selective supply of goods by some companies only servicing certain sections of their customer base.

"With Scotland's pubs and bars just taking the first tentative steps towards recovery the last thing this beleaguered industry needs is for more restrictions to be imposed on it. The full reopening of the hospitality sector has been hit with two serious issues – a shortage of staff availability and the more recent immediate problems facing the supply chain.

“The last thing this sector needs is more hurdles in place in the race to its recovery." 

The problems are being exacerbated by shortages of CO2 and nitrogen supplies, which are needed for carbonated beers. The SLTA has said members had seen gas orders cancelled “on more than one occasion”.

A shortage of CO2 hit brewers, soft drink and poultry producers in 2018, caused by a shutdown in production facilities across northern Europe.

Meanwhile beer supplies across the UK are already set to be stretched for the August Bank Holiday weekend after beer draymen from GXO Logistics Drinks voted in favour of strike action following a pay dispute. 

The drivers, who are part of the Unite union, deliver around 40% of the UK’s beer supplies, including brands such as Heineken, to pubs and other hospitality outlets.

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