Beer cans on an assembly line.

MONEY & BUSINESS: Beer falling flat over shortage of carbon dioxide

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There’s a bad buzz brewing over the country’s beer supply.

A nationwide shortage of carbon dioxide that became dire after a Mississippi supplier of the vital gas shut down in July is threatening beer-makers around the country. 

Without carbon dioxide, many types of beers fall flat.

The gas contributes to beer foam, shelf stability and it’s used throughout the production and packaging process, according to experts.

Craft breweries have been especially hard hit, with some making plans to shut down their manufacturing plants.

Night Shift Brewing of Everett, Mass. will be closing a facility in its hometown in October, the brewery said on its Instagram account last week.

Carbon dioxide provides the carbonation in beers and is a critical ingredient.
Boston Globe via Getty Images

“Last week, we learned that our CO2 supply has been cut for the foreseeable future, possibly more than a year until we get more,” according to the post. 

Brewers have been facing a series of supply chain issues, including aluminum can and barley shortages over the past two years,  but the gas is critical to every aspect of their operations.

A Night Shift Brewery worker canning.
Night Shift Brewery was forced to shift its production to another brewery because its gas supplies were cut off.
Boston Globe via Getty Images

The shortage was felt more acutely in the Southeast initially after one of the country’s largest gas hubs in Jackson Dome, Miss., had been contaminated in early July by other compounds.

It’s not known what happened to the plant, but contamination issues can “leave a product at risk of bad tastes, strange odors, spoilage, and product recalls,” reports trade publication, Gas World.

A brewery employee moving bags of ingredients.
Breweries have faced a series of supply chain issues during the pandemic, including a shortage of barley.
Boston Globe via Getty Images

But the issue just got worse, according to the Massachusetts Brewers Guild, 

“Several of my brewers received a Force Majeure letter yesterday from their CO2 supplier letting them know that their plant in Illinois just suffered a mechanical failure that will shut the plant down until mid-September,” the guild’s executive director, Katie Stinchon said in an email. “The result is a 30% reduction in contracted volume for at least the next month, and they should expect delays.”

Night Shift Brewing had to quickly pivot and move its canning and other operations to another brewery and plans to close its own facility by Oct. 1, laying off more than a dozen employees.

“It was an awful, terrible conversation to have with a really wonderful group of people, many of whom have been with us since the beginning,” the brewery said.





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