Smaller batches, rotating selections give craft breweries leg up on aluminum can supply issues

DELMARVA – When you crack open a cold one, the beer inside the can is the star of the show. But it’s the cans themselves that are taking center stage as breweries across the country are struggling to get their hands on them.

Yet, local craft brewers say their smaller size and rotating selections are helping them get around that issue.

“I think, for us, it’s different just because we are on a smaller scale than some of the other places. We had more issues this time last year,” said General Manager of restaurant operations at Tall Tales Brewing Company Jes Shook. “We had to outsource and just kind of supplement some of the cans.”

The issue of aluminum can shortages isn’t brand new. In fact, Dewey Beer Company says it’s something that’s been plaguing the beer industry since the COVID-19 pandemic began. “When the pandemic began, on premises consumption came to a slow down,” said consulting brewer Matt Lindenmuth. We saw a heavy increase in packaged goods. Cans became an immediate heavy demand and concern.”

But, the new problem is that the Ball Corporation, a major supplier of the cans, is now requiring a minimum of just about one million pre-printed cans per order for un-contracted brewers. “In addition to the volume of producing that amount of beer, there’s also the storage of five truckloads. I mean, imagine five tractor trailers next to you on the highway. Where do you put those cans?” said Lindenmuth.

It’s a quantity that could leave one order of cans sitting around for months, depending on how much beer a given brewery makes.

“You could have trepidation on what’s to come. Do we want to spend all this money and get an exorbitant amount of cans and see what happens? To kind of just take a dive and hope that everything works out?” said Shook.

Plus, printing labels instead of ordering pre-printed cans is giving craft brewers a leg up. “If you look at something like a Miller Lite, you can’t peel that label off like a sticker. Whereas, with ours, each can has a sticker that’s put on by a machine every single time that it comes through,” said Shook.

As local breweries explain it, the beauty of craft beer is that the variety of their product is only limited to their imagination. Lindenmuth says it’s just another reason customers have to keep it local. “These guys are always releasing new one off batches, and it’s sort of the excitement of every week, every month there’s a number of new beer releases,” he said.

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