The Real Reason There's A Canned Beer Shortage Right Now

Maybe you have a favorite craft brewer, or you buy one of those smaller brands now owned by a big beer company. If so, then you probably already know these beers may be harder to find during the COVID-19 pandemic. American consumers have endured shortages of toilet paper, flour, and even pepperoni. Now we can add canned beer to the list.

The problem isn't with the beer supply — it's with the can supply (via USA Today). With bars and restaurants closed during the pandemic, more people are buying beer in stores rather than from a tap. Can makers are working at full capacity but are having trouble meeting the increased demand (via the Brewers Association). That means the big companies need to focus on their best-selling brands. Molson Coors reported in its Beer & Beyond blog that sales of its major brands Miller Lite and Coors Light increased significantly compared to a year ago. Molson Coors isn't saying which beers are out of production (via CBS Boston), but their fans probably know already.

The much smaller craft beer makers might have a problem getting any of their products to market. The Brewers Association warned its small-scale members that they might be the first customers that can makers would drop during the shortage. Some small brewers could go out of business as a result, the association said. They suggested that craft beer makers consider packaging options other than aluminum. 

Cans were in high demand even before COVID-19

The aluminum can shortage isn't going away anytime soon. New can factories won't be up and running until the end of 2021, the Brewers Association said. The pandemic shouldn't get all the blame for the shortage, either. Cans have been growing in popularity over the past decade, according to the National Beer Wholesalers Association. The spiked seltzer craze, fueled by White Claw, has heightened demand for aluminum cans even more. Soft drink makers also are competing with the beer companies for the nation's aluminum can supply. People prefer their sodas in cans, too, as plastic bottles have started to be seen as environmentally unfriendly.

Breweries had also found glass bottles to be in short supply at the beginning of the pandemic (via Financial Post), but the can shortage is more pressing. The only beer container that seems to be readily available is the stainless steel keg. American Keg is even offering to help establishments with "de-beering" full kegs that have sat around too long.