California Enacts Law to Combat Keg Theft

California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law a bill that makes it illegal to deface the name of a manufacturer as it appears on a metal keg without written consent, a measure designed to combat theft.

While already illegal to recycle kegs bearing a manufacturer’s name without written permission, ethically dubious, albeit green-minded opportunists circumvented the law by destroying any given keg’s insignia. By now requiring the manufacturer’s consent, the state has effectively propped up another roadblock to deter the theft of kegs for the purpose of recycling them.

“We feel it’s a very positive step and hope and think that it will make a difference,” Tom McCormick, executive director of the California Craft Brewers Association, which sponsored the bill, told Brewbound. “The theft of kegs by people that are then taking them into recycling facilities and getting cash has become a big issue for the industry.”

McCormick estimated brewers in his state may be losing five to 10 percent of their keg inventory due to theft.

According to the Brewers Association (BA), keg loss costs its members between $0.46 and $1.37 per-barrel of annual keg production, “depending on the size of the brewery, percent of beer produced that is sold in kegs and other factors.”

“Assuming 2013 craft beer sales of 15.3 million barrels, that is a total direct capital charge to craft brewers of $7 million and $21 million annually,” Chuck Skypeck, the BA’s technical brewing projects coordinator wrote recently in an online forum hosted on the trade group’s website. “The indirect costs of product outages at wholesale and at retail caused by a shortened keg float are likely far higher.”

Prior to the bill’s passage, it was a misdemeanor to mark out a manufacturer’s name on returnable beer containers or cartons made of wood or fiberboard, but metal kegs were unprotected.

The law will officially take effect on January 1.