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.
Big breweries, like Budweiser, have technology to siphon off the gas during the fermentation process, but smaller craft brewers don’t produce enough product to get their gas from fermentation, according to a trade group representing thousands of small breweries.
“Some of our members had to stop production because a gas shipment was delayed or they ran out of CO2,” said Chuck Skypeck, technical brewing projects director for the Brewers Association. “We are hearing reports from members of decreased production. We might start to see shortages in a few weeks, especially if the situation continues.”
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.
“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.
“It’s an ingredient in beer,” Skypeck said. “if you don’t have it, you can’t make beer.”
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.
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.