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thirst quencher As pubs prepare to reopen in June for outdoor service the race to brew 500,000 pints a day is on

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Almost 500,000 pints a day will be brewed over the next 45 days to quench the thirst of pub-goers celebrating the ­reopening of the sector.

As pubs prepare to reopen in June for outdoor service – many for the first time in 17 months – drinks firms are rushing to ensure hospitality outlets avoid supply problems.

For many breweries that dramatically cut production after the pandemic hit in March last year, the return to normal ­kegging targets is a dream come true.

Ireland will see almost 250,000 kegs of lager, stout and ale produced ahead of reopening. This is equivalent to more than 22 million pints.

That figure does not include smaller craft brewers who, unlike the giant beer firms such as Diageo and Heineken, have not had full access to supermarket and off-licence sales.

Cider firms have also accelerated production, although the brewing time is shorter than that required for beer.

“We are looking forward to hotels and outdoor hospitality reopening in early June and are currently working hard to ensure our licensed premises are fully supplied and ready to offer customers great tasting Guinness,” a Diageo spokesperson said.

At peak production, the flagship Guinness brewery at St James’s Gate in Dublin is capable of producing 39 pints per second.

Last year St James’s Gate had not seen its beer and stout stocks reduced to such low levels since the 1916 Easter Rising.

Surging off-licence sales throughout the lockdowns helped production to recover, though kegging operations remained at a fraction of ­normal levels.

The ongoing absence of major outdoor festivals will continue to hit beer and cider sales – though drinks industry executives are hoping a predicted staycation boom will help compensate.

Heineken chief brewer PJ Tierney said everyone in the industry was excited for the return to more normal summer operations.

“People were talking about the excitement when hairdressers and shops opened – can you imagine when pubs, restaurants and hotels get to open again,” he said.

“There is a massive amount of work and preparation behind what is basically the reopening of the entire Irish hospitality industry.”

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The Dutch brewing giant will, through its Cork brewery, handle 96,000 kegs between now and June 30.

Heineken Ireland official Aisling O’Neill said Ireland is taking its cue from how the UK relaunched its hospitality sector after its vaccine roll-out campaign.

“The UK had a very successful relaunch,” she said.

“What they experienced was that in the first couple of weeks the industry performed very well and consumers were very, very confident to go back out.

“That has been building week by week as people get a good experience in the hospitality sector.”

Ms O’Neill said those people who were reluctant to return to hospitality settings have slowly gained confidence as they saw friends, neighbours and family members once again enjoying traditional forms of hospitality across the UK.

“That is exactly what everybody wants here in Ireland – a positive experience where people get to enjoy all that is wonderful about Irish hospitality,” she said.

The keg rush comes after Tánaiste Leo Varadkar this week revealed there will be no €9 meal requirement or time limit on tables when outdoor hospitality resumes next month.

Speaking to the Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise on Wednesday, Mr Varadkar said that while there is no date set for the return of indoor pubs and restaurants, “it is certainly our hope and intention to allow indoor dining to resume in July, hopefully early July”.

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