Coronavirus Shutdowns Could Soon Lead To Beer Shortage In The United States, Experts Warn

Bottles of beer on ice.
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The coronavirus shutdowns put in place across the United States could soon be bringing about a new side effect, experts warn — beer shortages.

Representatives from the brewing industry are warning that the decrease in carbon dioxide from ethanol plants could soon be leading to a shortage of beer, soda, and seltzer water. As Reuters reported, via Newshub, both beer and soft drink makers rely on carbon dioxide to give carbonation to their drinks, and ethanol producers are a key provider of this CO2.

But the abrupt drop in gasoline demand from Americans bound in their homes has led to an equally sharp drop in production of ethanol, with 34 of the 45 ethanol plants in the U.S. either cutting production or going idle entirely. That has brewing industry experts warning that a shortage in beer production will be the next result.

Bob Pease, chief executive officer of the Brewers Association — which represents small and independent brewers — warned that close to half of all carbon dioxide comes from ethanol producers. He said that within three weeks, many brewers will need to start cutting their production.

“The problem is accelerating. Every day we’re hearing from more of our members about this,” Pease warned.

As the Reuters report noted, some beverage companies have begun looking for alternative sources to acquire carbon dioxide.

The pandemic is hurting brewers in other ways, especially smaller and craft brewers. Fortune reported that the closure of non-essential businesses has hit the industry hard, as people have been unable to visit taprooms. As a result, many have lost a primary source of income.


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The report cited a study from the South Carolina Brewers Guild that found sales from breweries and brew pubs were down 70 percent across the state, and that close to half had seen a decline of more than 80 percent. Many of them saw trouble on the horizon, with 80 percent saying they would not be able to stay open after three months, and 15 percent saying they would not last another month.

As beer brewing industry experts noted, they would need more help in order to make it through the pandemic.

“Releasing the data wasn’t done to scare, but it was done to show that we need further relief to aid these small businesses, as we have no idea how long this will last or when anyone will be able to move back to an on-premises model or when we do, how limited that will be,” wrote Brook Bristow, executive director of the South Carolina Brewers Guild, on Twitter.