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September 6, 2018

Brewers struggling with shortage of aluminum cans

Photo / Tim Greenway
Photo / Tim Greenway
Sean Sullivan, the executive director of the Maine Brewers' Guild, shown in this 2016 Mainebiz photo. Sullivan recently told the Forecaster that a shortage of beer cans reported by some Maine brewers is due to vendor consolidation, aluminum prices, tariffs and logistics.

A shortage of beer cans that has been in the making for a couple of years is being felt by some Maine brewers.

Paul Lorrain of Funky Bow Brewery & Beer Co. in Lyman told the Forecaster his company has had difficulty obtaining 16-ounce cans and as a result twice shut down beer production this year.

"When you can't move beer out of kegs into cans, it messes up the brewery schedule," he told the newspaper.

Maine Brewers' Guild spokesperson Sean Sullivan told the newspaper the problem is due to vendor consolidation, aluminum prices, tariffs and logistics.

According to The Beer Institute, a national trade association in Washington, D.C., that represents the $350 billion beer industry of over 5,000 brewers, aluminum cans make up 62% of beer volume produced and sold in the U.S.

Among aluminum can packages, the largest share gainers in 2017 were large-format cans of 16 ounces or larger. Some of the growth comes from premium and economy brands in places like convenience stores, and some from growth in craft brands in four packs as well as 32-ounce cans often sold at taprooms and brewpubs.

Most recently, the institute said, brewers using cans face rising costs due to tariffs imposed on aluminum imports. In 2017, there were 5,648 reporting brewery facilities/locations in the U.S.— an increase of about 552 from 2016.

The can shortage comes in the face of an expanding industry. According to the National Beer Wholesalers Association in Alexandria, Va., in 1983, there were 49 breweries. Some states now have more breweries than the entire country had in 1990.

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