Yes, There Is a Shortage of Beer Cans. Here’s Why.

Surprise, it's not entirely due to the coronavirus

hundreds of beer cans
How can the coronavirus get any worse? Three words: beer can shortage.
Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Sixteen ounce cans are going to be a problem this summer,” as David Racino, co-founder and CEO of American Canning, told the beer journal Brewbound recently. “There is just such a strain on the supply chain right now.”

Yes, that shortage is due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as drinking habits have shifted rapidly from bars to homes. Making matters worse: Racino thinks the shortage will be more of a problem for craft breweries.

Also compounding the issue: The skyrocketing popularity of hard seltzers, which is putting a strain on the supply of 12-ounce slim cans. The 32-ounce crowler is also facing bottling shortages, and a supply chain via Metal Container Corporation (MCC), a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev, has been turned off for smaller producers so it could concentrate on supplying its parent company.

The shortages began just a few weeks after the spread of COVID-19 forced people to stay at home to imbibe. “It’s something many of us who have worked in the beer industry for a long time have simply never seen,” Brian Erhardt, chief supply chain officer at Molson Coors BeverageCo., told Beer & Beyond, noting that the first eight weeks of stay-at-home orders produced packaged beer orders at Fourth of July levels — one of the industry’s biggest weeks — twice.

A long-term remedy may arrive via the large can manufacturer Ball, which is reappropriating some of its global manufacturing back toward to domestic distribution and installing new lines in existing factories. It’s also constructing two new facilities in the U.S., though those may not be done until the end of 2021.

Even if can production can be increased, the general slowdown of industrial manufacturing means there’s a possible shortage of captured CO2, another important element in the beer-making process.

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