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Hey pincher, leave those kegs alone

Mash's hard working team had had enough of seeing the company's beer kegs here, there and everywhere but its own brewery.

For some strange reason a lot of people, not all of whom are beer aficionados, believe the 50-litre vessels that carry the wonder nectar to pubs, clubs, restaurants and festivals are community goods. Pinching a couple is a victimless crime. After all, the breweries have plenty.

Yes they do. And they have to pay for them. Every one they have comes at a cost and Mash owner Brad Cox estimates a fully working keg with spear sets him back around $200. Fortunately, brewer Keegan Ross, pictured above, found a couple for The Sip's recent Mash visit.

“I’m sure we have around 400 kegs in our system but at the moment we can probably account for about a third of them,” Cox says.

Where the others are is a mystery. But Cox and Mash’s head of sales, Scott Earley, did find a couple via social media recently. Unfortunately, they won’t be able to use them again.

A local homebrewer proudly displayed his latest system, complete with a couple of cut up Mash kegs, on a Facebook page. It has followed recent sightings of people splitting kegs to make barbecues.

What ensued was a volley of comments between the Mash team and the punter, including the suggestion that what occurred was criminal damage to the brewery’s property. But we're not going down that path here.

To shorten the story, eventually the Facebook poster conceded his error, claiming he had bought the two items off a scrap supplier, which itself poses a bigger concern about the black market in kegs.

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Cox could have taken action against the homebrewer. But he decided, in this case only, to turn a negative into a positive. He also hopes more noise about the theft of kegs across the industry might help alleviate the problem.

“The guy was gloating he had Mash kegs in the system but I had to point out they belonged to me,” Cox said.

Earley had wanted to develop a pilot brewing operation at Mash to give head beer maker Charlie Hodgson more room to test small batch recipes.

“When we spoke to the gentlemen he said it was free advertising. But we pointed out the kegs were stolen,” Scott said.

“After a bit of chat about why it was wrong we said to him that, ok, we won’t take it any further if you then build that same type of system for us to use as a test unit.

“We can get something good from this experience. But we don't want to have to do it again.”

Keg theft is a mammoth issue across the country. If Mash can’t locate around 200 kegs, then consider WA has almost 60 breweries and while they are of differing sizes their loss of equipment quickly adds up.

Indeed, the value of replacing kegs is costing drinkers more at the pub tap.

Where they disappear from is also hard to pinpoint. Kegs can go missing from the back of pubs, be lost in transit back to the brewery or be souvenired by mugs.

ABOVE: A keg being sold on Gumtree.

“If it continues it will only serve to push up the price of beer,” Cox said. “Kegs have to be paid for somewhere.

“And they are not disposable. We can get decades out of a keg.

“We hope to increase the knowledge of this problem and get people educated that taking kegs is costing drinkers in the long run.”

In an attempt to keep a light on the issue Mash is offering an amnesty to anyone in possession of one of its kegs.

For the rest of August if one of Mash’s kegs, and it will have to be identified by more than a sticker, is delivered back to the brewery in the Swan Valley, the team will give the returnee a pint of one of Hodgson’s great beers.

But in future, leave the kegs alone.


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