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Food & Beverage

Alcohol alchemy: Unsold beer reborn as craft gin

Japanese brewery spirits away pandemic-hit pubs' liquid waste problem

Kiuchi's brewery in Ishioka, Ibaraki Prefecture, is turning itself into a gin distillery.

MITO, Japan -- As the coronavirus pandemic keeps customers away, and bars and restaurants are having to dispose of their draft beer, a brewery in Naka, Ibaraki Prefecture, has come up with a recycling scheme to keep all those suds from going to waste.

Kiuchi Brewery, known for its Hitachino Nest line of beers, collects unsold draft beer from eateries and pubs, distills it into craft gin, bottles the spirit and returns it to the benefactors.

The company started the free service after several restaurant managers came to it pleading for a solution.

Under the service, restaurants send unsold beer to Kiuchi's distillery in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward. The company sends back the gin in labeled bottles. The restaurants pay only transportation costs.

Like bread, beer can quickly go stale, and many taverns that have bowed to society's social distancing and other virus containment measures are at a loss as to what to do with their kegs that are about to expire.

Distilled into gin, however, the transformed liquid can be stored for an extended period, then served once the virus runs its course and the masses once again descend upon restaurants and pubs.

Kiuchi Brewery, known for its Hitachino Nest line of beers, helps restaurants and bars cope with the pandemic by turning unsold draft beer into craft gin.

Kiuchi accepts beer made by rivals. The service is available to establishments that have at least 20 liters of unused beer on their hands. Kiuchi's recipe turns about 100 liters of beer into about 8 liters, or 10 750-milliliter bottles, of gin.

The brewery has received seven or eight inquiries, according to Vice President Toshiyuki Kiuchi.

"One client asked us to process more than 20 tons of beer," Kiuchi said.

To meet demand, the company will use its two other breweries, in Naka and Ishioka, Ibaraki Prefecture, as distilleries.

Kiuchi plans to use liquor tax refunds to pay for the operation.

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