Tony Espinosa. Picture: Emma Hillier

Tony Espinosa. Picture: Emma Hillier

Beer drought means smalltown pubs can't open

Illabo Hotel unable to open amid tragic beer drought

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The tiny town of Illabo is still anxiously awaiting the reopening of its pub.

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The tiny town of Illabo is still anxiously awaiting the reopening of its pub, which has become the proverbial pub with no beer.

The town's beer drought was caused by a shortage in the supply chain, as breweries work around the clock to keep up with the sudden reopening of pubs across the state.

The shortage has hit small pubs especially hard, including the Illabo Hotel which was unable to reopen even after restrictions were eased on Monday.

Illabo is on the NSW South West Slopes part of the Riverina, about 55km north-east of Wagga.

That social fabric has been taken away, I'm basically here on my own now. It affects you mentally, y'know? - Tony Espinosa

Publican Tony Espinosa said it was a tragedy for the 190-odd townspeople, who relied on the Illabo Hotel as the central hub for the community.

Mr Espinosa said on a typical afternoon his hotel would host about 15 per cent of Illabo's entire population, with even more people trekking in from the outlying regions for a schooner.

"They're landholders, croppers, stock agents, they come in and have a pow-wow. It's like a meeting place for the outlying area, which is a big area," Mr Espinosa said.

"That social fabric has been taken away, I'm basically here on my own now. It affects you mentally, y'know?"

GLASS ENTIRELY EMPTY: David Carter is a loyal patron of the Illabo Hotel, but he will have to wait a little longer to get his pub fix. Picture: Emma Hillier

GLASS ENTIRELY EMPTY: David Carter is a loyal patron of the Illabo Hotel, but he will have to wait a little longer to get his pub fix. Picture: Emma Hillier

Australian Hotels Association Wagga president David Barnhill said Wagga pubs were also experiencing shortages, particularly when it came to the boutique beers, ciders, and certain smaller brands.

However, Mr Barnhill said he was confident that beer supplies would start flowing freely within weeks, as breweries ramp up their production efforts.

"There's a bit of a shortage because the government opening pubs up took the breweries by surprise, but they should all be on track in a week or two," Mr Barnhill said.

"The breweries are working around the clock to make it happen."

The largest supplier for the Wagga region is Carlton and United Breweries, and a spokesman said they were scrambling to increase their production given the government's short notice.

"The short time frames provided for re-opening and the current surge in demand has led to some constraints as our production ramps up and we seek to supply venues across the country," the spokesman said.

"We appreciate the understanding of our customers as operations return to normal."

The brewery has issued mass refunds to pubs for their kegs, which have since grown stale and had to be poured down the drain due to the seven-week hiatus.

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