The customs visit is simply an audit of the financial and physical trail from mash tun to the point at which duty is paid (brewery gate). As a brewer you need to have documentary evidence of where the malt has gone all the way through to how and when the firkin left the warehouse and how much beer was in the firkin. If there are any gaps in the chain of information you are in le merd. Say for example an operator leaves a valve open on a tank and some of the beer is lost to the drain. If you haven’t got a record of this which tallies with the volume lost, the brew in question, the vessel in question, the date in question and the malt used to make the brew in question you are liable for the duty which would have been paid on the beer when it ultimately left the brewery. If your records are dismally poor you could even lose your licence to brew
Brewers don’t generally get into brewing because they have a passion for record keeping so it’s not the first thing you focus on when plying your trade. When you have experienced a bad customs visit it quickly rises to up your agenda. The first paragraph probably had you thinking that Customs Officers are akin to Arnold Schwarzenegger in a visitor’s badge. I am pleased to say that our two day audit was virtually pain-free and that both of the Customs Officers where lovely, charming people who made the whole process pleasant and educational. I have a few points to work on but I now have a greater understanding of what is expected of me. Phew!