The bizarre legal decision gives lager the same untouchable status as medical supplies and drinking water.
It was made after workers at Carlsberg’s brewery in Lithuania voted to walk out over pay and conditions.
The brewing giant went to court to declare the strike ballot invalid and the stoppage illegal.
Britain’s biggest union Unite has now intervened, with national officer Jennie Formby saying: “This is probably the most ridiculous decision in the world. Of course many people think beer is great but it does not save lives.”
Carlsberg argued no strike should take place until after the “high season” – and the Lithuanian court suspended industrial action for 30 days, saying beer production was “vitally essential”.
The brewery workers’ union is appealing to a higher court and accuses Carlsberg of threatening disciplinary action.
Nine workers were dismissed on the grounds of “lost production”, and then taken back on temporary contracts, after joining a picket line protesting about the ruling.
Unite, with 1,000 UK members at Carlsberg, protested to HQ in Denmark.
It says: “The decision that beer is essential cannot be allowed to stand.””
But Carlsberg commented last night: “We did not use those words, they were used by the lawyers as they were concerned about brewing yeast fermenting during a strike.”