Inflation hits breweries as costs rise

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Inflation is now coming for our beer.

The rising cost of aluminum cans and bottles is starting to squeeze craft breweries across the countries, forcing them to hike prices at the tap.

Broomfield, Colorado-based Ball Corp. — one of the world’s biggest suppliers of aluminum cans and other recyclable beverage containers — told clients recently that it plans to hike prices and lift the minimum number of cans certain producers can order.

Starting Jan. 1, the company will raise the minimum order for non-contract customers, which includes many small breweries, to five truckloads, or about a million cans — up from just one truckload, according to CNN.

Bell also said it’s hiking the price per can by nearly 50 percent for at least some non-contract customers, according to notices sent to breweries that were viewed by CNN.

Starting January 1, 2022 the company will raise the minimum order for non-contract customers, which includes many small breweries to five truckloads from one truckload.
Ball Corp. will soon raise the minimum order for non-contract customers, which includes many small breweries to five truckloads from one truckload.
Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images

The changes are an “economic killer for some,” Garrett Marrero, CEO and co-founder of Maui Brewing Co. in Hawaii, told CNN, “and certainly most small brewers are going to have to raise prices significantly or rethink their entire models.”

“This is going to create a paradigm shift in craft beer moving forward,” he said.

“This is still pretty darn new, so we’re still trying to gather information from our members that are being impacted,” Bob Pease, president and chief executive officer of the Brewers Association, told CNN.

Upslope Brewing Company's Head brewer Daniel Pages checks the clarity and will check the taste of the beer prior to it being transferred into the carbonation tank.
Upslope Brewing Company’s Head brewer Daniel Pages checks the clarity and will check the taste of the beer prior to it being transferred into the carbonation tank.
Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images

The Brewers Association is a trade group that represents small and independent brewers across the country.

Pease added that the change will mean that hundreds of craft brewers will likely need to source their cans elsewhere, potentially throwing the industry into disarray for the timebeing.

The Brewers Association, which also represents Ball, is considering reaching out to policymakers, according to Pease, and representatives for the group plan to meet with Ball executives sometime next month.

A manager stands next to pallets of aluminum food cans inside the warehouse at the Ball Corp. beverage can manufacturing facility.
A manager stands next to pallets of aluminum food cans inside the warehouse at the Ball Corp. beverage can manufacturing facility.
Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Matt Cutter, co-founder of Upslope Brewing in Boulder, Colorado, told CNN that the move could force brewers to hike prices on craft six-packs by $1 to $2 more.

“As craft brewers, we’re not rolling in the dough here,” he said. “We can’t absorb this. It’ll force us out of business.”

Upslope is one of the few breweries in the US that packages its beer exclusively in aluminum cans, meaning it’ll be hit even harder by Ball’s move on Jan. 1.

Bell said the company hiking the price per can by nearly 50 percent for at least some non-contract customers.
Bell said the company hiking the price per can by nearly 50 percent for at least some non-contract customers.
Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Ball, for its part, is investing in expanding capacity by building five new plants in the US, but those aren’t going to have an effect in the short term as demand continues to outstrip supply.

“Ball is making investments to bring additional capacity online, and in the meantime we remain in a tightly constrained supply environment for the foreseeable future,” Ball said in one letter to beer makers, according to CNN.

“This environment is making it difficult for us to deliver the quality customer experience our customers expect from Ball, and we are making some adjustments to how we do business to remedy that.”

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