When news broke last month that Night Shift would cease production in its Massachusetts brewery and move production to a nearby facility, a CO2 shortage was cited. That sent ripples through the brewing industry, some of skepticism and some of worry.
The gas is a critical component in breweries, not only for the fizz that customers expect when opening a can or bottle or pouring a draft pint, but also in brewhouse operations that move beer around and other purposes.
In an informal poll this week among her staff, Amy George, the president of Earthly Labs, an Austin, Texas company that manufacturers equipment that captures carbon dioxide waste, found that clients in southern states, throughout the northeast, and out west in Colorado and California are experiencing shortages in their CO2 supply.
“I’d love to tell you that these are just pockets but these shortages are much wider than perhaps [people] would think,” she said. “The concept of C02 shortages is not going away.”
There is a supply problem that is part of larger supply chain issues and beer is not alone in being impacted as CO2 is used in other beverages industries, cannabis, and in the manufacturing of vaccines.
There are steps that small breweries can take to mitigate a CO2 issue. Earthly Labs and other companies’ manufacturer equipment that can capture naturally occurring carbon dioxide during the brewing process and convert it to use where needed in other processes.
While there are some breweries like Alaskan Brewery that have been using the technology for decades, the equipment has evolved over the years and become nimbler and more manageable for even the smallest of taprooms.
It can be expensive, for sure, but there are grants available, often on the local level, to encourage companies to reduce their carbon dioxide release, especially in the face of climate change.
As the Night Shift news settles in, brewers of all sizes will do well to take inventory and have hard conversations with CO2 suppliers to ensure that needs will be met going forward, or to begin thinking about installing capturing equipment of their own.
Still, the same supply issues that are impacting other industries, means that making those calls to manufacturers now is likely the smarter play, since it could still be a while before equipment can arrive and be installed.
George, in an interview with ProBrewer, cited a recent Credit Suisse report that online research on carbon capture is up by more than a hundred-fold, as manufacturers look for options and to protect themselves from shortages.
She also noted that there have been some upsides, especially in the beer space, from clients who have already installed carbon capture equipment, and use their own gas to carbonate in the package, “brewers have reported that it leads to cleaner beer with aroma and mouthfeel. That’s not why people are buying it, but it is a benefit while also reducing a carbon footprint.”