Thousands of litres of beer were seized from a South Tyneside brewery by customs officers over suspicions that real ale had been brewed without a licence.
Officers from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) swooped on the Maltings pub in Claypath Lane, South Shields, yesterday morning.
Customs officers also went to Jarrow Breweries – formerly Jarrow Brewery – on the Bede Industrial Estate, Jarrow.
Officers yesterday seized 14,760 litres of beer from a tanker at Jarrow Breweries, along with 24 nine-gallon kegs, one 18-gallon keg and 64 30-litre kegs of beer.
From The Maltings, 6,668 litres of beer were seized by being pumped into a HMRC tanker, as well as 33 nine-gallon kegs of beer.
A HMRC spokesman confirmed its officers removed beer under Section 139 of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979, which relates to brewing without a licence.
The brewery – established by pub entrepreneur Jess McConnell in 2002 – operates The Maltings pub, in addition to the Robin Hood pub and Gin and Ale House, both in Jarrow.
The raids are the latest setback in troubled times for the brewery, famous for its Rivet Catcher real ale.
It went into liquidation in April this year.
As a result, a new company was created – called Jarrow Breweries – and former Vaux Breweries managing director Frank Nicholson was appointed chairman.
The brewery has not been in production in recent weeks over a problem in attaining a brewery certificate for the newly-named company.
Telephone callers to the Jarrow Brewery are greeted with a recorded message saying: “Dear customers, I am sorry to inform you we are unable to supply our product to the trade until we receive a brewery certificate for the new company.
“We will contact all customers and suppliers as soon as we are back on tap. We are sorry for any inconvenience.”
A HMRC spokesman said: “Beer duty is chargeable on certain types of beer if their strength is more than 1.2% alcohol by volume, and beer is liable for beer duty as soon as it’s produced.
“HMRC is committed to ensuring that individuals and businesses operate within the parameters of the law when it comes to the production and packaging of beer.”
Today it emerged that Mr McConnell, who was not available for comment, is no longer a director of Jarrow Breweries Limited.
A statement last night from Lewis Harvey, the company’s head brewer and director, said the HMRC seizure was the result of a pre-arranged visit.
Mr Harvey said: “Their visit was not a raid but an organised visit to dispose of beer that was out of date due to a technical issue regarding the licenses of the Maltings and Bede Trading Estate breweries.
“Jarrow Breweries are currently not brewing and have not brewed since mid-June 2015 in agreement with HMRC, whilst they await for their new registration to be approved.”