It’s no barrel of laughs — the growing problem of stolen beer kegs is estimated to have cost the drinks industry €40m since 2007.
The Irish Brewers’ Association has expressed concern about the extent of the black market for stolen kegs which are turned into scrap metal.
The association yesterday urged pub owners to remain vigilant against the continuing risk of theft of empty barrels left outside their premises.
Over 400,000 beer and cider kegs have been stolen or reported missing from outlets over the past seven years based on figures supplied by distributors including Diageo, Heineken and the C&C group.
Kegs have been targeted by criminal gangs as they are made from high-grade stainless steel which fetches high prices on the black market.
IBA senior executive Thomas Burke said the average cost of replacing a keg is around €100.
Mr Burke said the continuing serious nature of the problem was hindering the industry’s ability to meet customer requirements and was leading to unsustainable losses.
“For every keg stolen, the cost of providing beer and cider to publicans in this country increases and damages the profitability of breweries. We believe that it is in our shared interest to protect our industry from keg theft.”
The IBA has begun work with the Garda Metal Forum, which was established in 2011, amid growing concern about the scale of the problem of stolen metal kegs.
Gardaí believe the vast majority of thefts involving stolen kegs are highly organised rather than opportunistic crimes.
Last February, gardaí launched a metal theft crime prevention and reduction plan in a bid to thwart the rising incidence of stolen metal items including radiators, building material and roadside sculptures. Until a recent crackdown, stolen kegs have been advertised on the internet in large batches and for as little as €5 each.
Several criminal and civil cases have also been undertaken against individuals involved in the thefts.
The IBA has encouraged publicans to store their empty kegs in a secure location and to arrange their prompt collection by breweries.
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