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Aluminum Can Shortage Threatens Some Craft Brewers

WEYMOUTH (CBS) - Craft brewers in Massachusetts have been trying to keep up with the demand for beer during the pandemic, but now they're facing a new hurdle in the form of an aluminum can shortage.

The U.S. Brewers Association first raised concerns over the summer, sending out an advisory about a can shortage that could cripple small breweries. The advisory warned, "the can shortage may threaten the ability to survive the pandemic for some craft brewers."

At Barrel House Z in Weymouth, founder and brewer Russell Heissner has struggled to secure cans from his supplier. "We are all on allocation right now," he said.

Heissner said he had to go to outside of his normal supply chain in order to get the cans they need to meet demand, but he paid a premium, $10,000 for a few month's supply. "We paid through the nose to secure what you see here," as he points to several pallets, "this is about 2 to 3 month supply for us."

Russell Heissner
Barrel House Z founder and brewer Russell Heissner (WBZ-TV)

At Wachusett Brewing Company, the shortage has forced them to be less crafty this year. President Christian McMahan says they have focused on their fan-favorites, to save precious cans. "Unfortunately for beer lovers there's probably been a lot less innovation this year," said McMahan, "because people have been so focused on just making sure their staples get to the shelves."

According to the Brewers Association, there are several reasons for the shortage. Bars have been closed, and people are buying more canned beverages. There has also been a shift in consumer preference for cans, over bottles. It's not limited to beer. Soft drinks, and seltzers are also impacted.

Over the summer, the Brewers Association said can manufacturers have been operating at capacity, with no quick or easy way to increase production. Demand is likely to continue to outpace supply through next year or possibly longer.

Wachusett Brewing Co. President Christian McMahan said it's alarming, especially when you see the biggest beer makers impacted. "When you hear breweries like Anheuser Busch being impacted, and some of these large guys, they're being cut short, it certainly puts us all on notice," McMahan said.

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