British Pubs Are Facing Beer Shortages Due to Brexit and COVID

One of the U.K.'s largest pub chains said they're struggling to stock a couple of major beer brands.

Beer aficionados love to talk about every step of the drinking process. We'll praise the skill of the brewer. We'll rave about the bar owner that chose to stock the beer and serve it properly. We'll even wax poetic about the farmer that grew the hops or the artist who created the stunning label. But one extremely important person often gets overlooked: the person who drives the beer from the brewery to your watering hole.

In the United Kingdom, those drivers aren't getting so easily overlooked anymore — because a shortage in drivers is reportedly leading to beer shortages in some pubs around the country.

Bartender serves draft beer in a pub
Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

Wetherspoon's — one of the U.K.'s largest pub chains — admitted this week that they were struggling to keep some major beer brands in stock. "We are experiencing some supply problems with both Carling and Coors, which means that some pubs do not have the products available," chain spokesman Eddie Gershon told The Guardian.

Molson Coors — owner of the two brands — further explained to the paper that the issue was due to a lack of truck drivers. "Like many in our great British brewing and pub sector we have been hit by the HGV [heavy goods vehicle] driver shortage," the company was quoted as saying. "While overall our availability is good, there are intermittent pockets of pressure in our supply network that are unfortunately affecting a number of Wetherspoon's pubs."

And though a prominent example, Wetherspoon's locations are far from the only pubs that have been dealing with this issue. Back in August, the Evening Standard spoke to numerous pubs facing beer issues. "The HGV driver shortage is being felt by our sector like so many others," Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, told the paper at the time. "Brewers and their logistics partners are working round the clock doing all they can to ensure deliveries."

The UK's Road Haulage Association told the BBC that the county has about 100,000 fewer drivers than it used to — driven by a mix of Brexit and COVID-19 issues. Brexit has reduced the number of European Union drivers working in the U.K. Meanwhile, COVID-19 has caused multiple issues from drivers not being able to work while isolating to the more long-term issue of prospective drivers not being able to quickly obtain a new license due to testing delays.

"We're working closely with [the] industry to address sector challenges," a British government spokesperson was quoted as saying. "This includes plans to streamline the process for new drivers to gain their HGV license and to increase the number of driving tests able to be conducted." Let's hope when the beer finally does get delivered, drinkers remember to raise a glass to those drivers.

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