A shortage of carbon dioxide is impacting breweries across the country, but in the Historic Triangle brewers might have escaped the shortage.
The Brewers Association, a national organization of brewers, sent a notice in April stating the coronavirus pandemic had significantly affected the demand and production of industrial manufacturing that leads to CO2 capture.
The decrease comes as a result of a reduction in industrial manufacturing that produces ethanol plants, which is used in fuel production. Carbon dioxide is produced and captured during this process to be used for commercial purposes. But with a decrease in fuel production, less carbon dioxide is able to be captured.
That could pose a problem.
“We use CO2 for a ton of elements of the brewing process,” said Chris Smith, co-owner of the Virginia Beer Company. “It would be a major issue because we wouldn’t be able to produce beer.”
Carbon Dioxide is used not only in the taps to pour the beer, but to carbonate the beverage and to clean the tanks in which the beer is contained.
Smith said when he first heard about the shortage, he immediately reached out to his gas supplier, Arc 3 Gases, who told him he shouldn’t have an issue with the carbon dioxide supply.
Michael Claar, operations director of Alewerks Brewing Company, said while the business sometimes sees a decrease in carbon dioxide, there hasn’t been one yet due to the pandemic. Rather, the pandemic has caused shortages of other supplies such as aluminium, as many breweries have had to switch to canning their product.
“Unfortunately, it hits you in the purse when that happens,” he said. “But manufacturing and packaging good shortages, like chemicals and gas, are just facts of life…and you just do the best you can to get everything you need.”
In regards to carbon dioxide, Claar said the business tries to find the best solution during any shortages or price increases and will stay in touch with their gas supplier, which is also Arc3 Gases.
Charlie Patterson, CO2 Division Manager for Arc3 Gasses North, said the company hasn’t had an issue with carbon dioxide production because it uses a different method to source the gas. Patterson did not divulge what that method was.
“That’s for me to know and you to find out,” he said. “There are other sources and source plants and methods of capturing CO2 as a secondary process in the world.”
Patterson said the carbon dioxide shortage mainly impacts places such as Colorado, New York and Connecticut where those suppliers capture their carbon dioxide from ethanol production. Arc3 Gases supplies carbon dioxide to breweries and other businesses throughout Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C.
“Here’s the truth of the matter,” Patterson said. “In our region, we are not currently experiencing a problem.”
He added that many brewers will become concerned about the shortage because of the “chatter” on blog sites and other forms of communication, but there shouldn’t be an issue in this region.
Patterson said he has received approximately 10 concerned inquiries from breweries regarding the shortage but the company is able to address those by continuing their supply.
“The biggest way that we have settled their feelings of angst has been by keeping them in full quantities of product,” he said. “Sometimes that’s the case—where actions have spoken louder than words.”
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