Breweries alter recipes, shut down amid CO2 shortage

CHICAGO (NewsNation) — The pandemic caused logistical headaches for countless businesses over the past two years, but while many industries are getting back on their feet, brewers are preparing for a possible shortage.

A supply chain crisis and an extinct volcano are closing the tap for some beer makers.

Some smaller breweries are even shutting down after a carbon dioxide production shortage caused by natural contamination at the Jackson Dome — a Mississippi reservoir of CO2 from an extinct volcano.

Now, brewers from coast to coast are struggling to get their products to the market. With few options available, some beer makers are planning to switch to nitrogen, while others, particularly small, independent craft brewers, are shutting down entirely.

Some breweries have been able to secure a steady supply of CO2, but it’s come at a steep cost — prices have increased as much as four times the average.

In July, Nightshift Brewery, outside Boston, shut down a facility after being told its carbon dioxide supply was “cut for the foreseeable future, possibly more than a year.”

While the brewery has been able to get its product onto shelves, thanks to help from other area breweries, not every craft beer maker has been so lucky.

The carbon dioxide shortage caught craft brewers, many of whom already viewed 2022 as a “make or break” year for their businesses, by surprise.

The Jackson Dome has provided CO2 to the food and beverage industry since 1977. It became contaminated, cutting off access to a major source of a key ingredient.

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Experts describe the situation at the site as “dire.” It’s been going on for months, and with no end in sight. Many fear it’s only a matter of time before consumers start feeling the impact on both their fridges and their wallets.  

The government’s consumer price index shows beer prices up 5% this year, less than the broader food and beverage market. but that could change soon as the rising costs of both carbon dioxide and grain lead to a more expensive brew.