Page last updated at 09:36 GMT, Friday, 15 January 2010

Belgian beer dispute hits supply of Stella Artois


Belgian beer dispute hits supply

Disaster may be brewing - or not - in beer-loving Belgium, where supplies of two of the country's most famous beers may be down to the last dregs.

An industrial dispute over planned job cuts means a blockade is threatening supplies of Stella Artois and Leffe.

A week-long blockade has stopped any beer from leaving the Leuven headquarters of Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's biggest brewing company.

Belgian supermarkets and bars have warned stocks are running low.

The unions are protesting against the company's plans to cut more than 250 of 2,700 jobs in Belgium, and so far talks aimed at resolving the dispute have got nowhere.

But there is no need for beer-lovers to panic just yet, says the BBC's Dominic Hughes in Brussels: There are probably around 125 breweries in Belgium producing around 800 standard beers.

Add in special one-off brews, and some experts believe there could be more than 8,000 beers.

No small beer

Anheuser-Busch InBev announced this week a plan to cut 800 jobs across western Europe, 10% of its 8,000 workforce in the region.

Stella Artois lager
Stella Artois is one of the firm's biggest-selling brands

The firm said the move was a response to falling beer sales, with the layoffs spread across Belgium, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

The news triggered protests at the firm's brewery in the Belgian town of Leuven, where it also has its headquarters.

Anheuser-Busch InBev was formed in 2008 when Belgium-based InBev bought Anheuser-Busch, the owner of Budweiser, and the largest brewer in the US.

InBev itself was formed in 2004 when Belgian Interbrew merged with Brazil's AmBev.

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