Aluminum can shortage hits craft breweries hard

The aluminum can shortage troubling the craft beer industry is yet another ripple effect of the coronavirus pandemic.

During the height of the outbreak in the United States, many breweries — including CraftHaus Brewery in Nevada — had to shift their business models overnight. That meant more canned beer for curbside pickup and less draft beer because taprooms were closed.

The result: a can shortage, which brewers have coined "the candemic."

CraftHaus Brewery fills 4,000 aluminum cans a week. Last month, nearly half of their beer went into cans.

"We were consuming at a rate that had never been consumed prior," co-owner Wyndee Forrest said.

Now supply is struggling to keep up with demand.

"The supply chain disruptions go beyond cans," Brewers Association chief economist Bart Watson said. "Almost everything brewers use in the brewhouse right now is either challenging to find or going up in price."

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"So when you have a perishable product sitting in your tanks ready to be packaged, you didn't have anything to put it into," Forrest said.

So CraftHaus had to adjust by removing the sleeves from existing cans, relabeling them, and using any size can available.

"Which is like throwing money down the drain," Forrest said. "I went from a 32 [ounce] to a 24 because that's what I found, and we had to retrofit the machine, the crowler machine, to fit that as well."

And as breweries pay more, you'll pay more. The owners of CraftHaus Brewery say they're considering raising draft prices.

"Cardboard, CO2, trucking and shipping — small brewers are getting hit from a lot of different areas, so hopefully we're going to see them continue to innovate, pivot, and thrive," Watson said. "But it's going to be a challenge for small brewers even as COVID abates."

Brewers expect the challenges to continue into next year or even the year after but they're hopeful.