The Beer Shortage That's Been Brewing Throughout 2022 May Be Especially Hard to Swallow This Fall

Just look at your empty grocery store shelves and you will see that there are so many missing products due to the pandemic supply chain shortages. Favorites like peanut butter, avocados and eggs have been in short supply. And before that, there was, of course, toilet paper (how could we ever forget?). 

However, now there is a shortage on the horizon that may be harder to take. Beer! It's going to be a lot more difficult to just go out and pick up your favorite brewski. Unfortunately, craft beer especially is in short supply and the beer that you can find is getting so much more expensive. So, it's no surprise the obvious question on everyone's mind is "why is there a beer shortage?"

Beer Shortage 2022

While there are a few factors at play, you may be surprised to find out that a carbon dioxide shortage is actually at the root of 2022's beer shortage. While a lot of people might assume that carbon dioxide has no relationship to beer production, in fact, it is to thank for not only the bubbles in the brews, but also for keeping beer tasting fresh. 

So, we'll go over the other beer shortage causes shortly, but first, let's dive deeper into the CO2 issue.

Related: 24 Beers That Are Super Low In Calories—but Still Taste Great!

Why Is There a CO2 Shortage?

One of the main reasons for the CO2 shortage 2022 is because of the infamous supply chain issues from the pandemic. But that's not all.

The other major problem that is having a serious effect on beer production is because of natural contamination at one of the biggest carbon dioxide reservoirs in the US, known as Jackson Dome, near Jackson, Mississippi. 

Not to mention, at the beginning of the pandemic there was another CO2 shortage that was caused by the shutdown of more than half of the ethanol plants due to safety concerns. 

Related: 22 Types of Beer to Begin Your Quest to Find Your Favorite Brew

How the Pandemic Impacted CO2 Demand

Ethanol plants, which produce CO2 as a byproduct, had to shut down during the pandemic because there wasn't a big demand for gas due to families and individuals staying home and not driving.

With less demand for gas, there was also less of a demand for ethanol which, in turn, caused a shortage of CO2. At the time, Rich Gottwald, CEO of the Compressed Gas Association, stated, “Suddenly people stopped driving, then there wasn’t a demand for gas, so there wasn’t a demand for ethanol, so then CO2 started drying up.”

How Did the Jackson Dome Reservoir Get Contaminated?

With the already short supply of CO2, it certainly didn't help that our largest CO2 reservoir got contaminated this year. Jackson Dome, part of an extinct volcano in Mississippi, got contaminated by gas from a nearby mine over the summer. 

Related: What Gives Beer Its Color? Test Your Beer Knowledge With Our Quiz

Why Is There a Beer Shortage in 2022?

We've listed out many of the different factors that have all created the perfect storm when it comes to troubles facing beer production.

1. The CO2 Shortage

Because CO2 is so important in the production of beer, the shortage of CO2 has a direct impact. CO2 is pumped into beer to create the carbonation that we like but it is also used in the canning process to stop the liquid from mixing with oxygen.

2. Poor Barley Harvest Back in 2021

The weather didn't cooperate for growing barley in the Northern Plains and Pacific Northwest last year. With high heat and dry conditions, the barley crops got scorched. Brad Rippey, USDA meteorologistexplained at the time, "We're seeing our lowest crop conditions of the century, which is only two decades old, but still lowest crop conditions of the century, for spring wheat for barley across the Northern Plains."

3. Spike in Demand for Aluminum Cans

Because the COVID pandemic kept people at home, there was a rise in at-home drinking causing a can shortage. Normally, people enjoy going out to bars and restaurants to order draft beer. When everyone was confined to their homes, their only options for beer were in cans or bottles.

4. Labor Shortages

Labor shortages are happening across the board as a result of the pandemic, impacting the brewing industry as well.

Related: Craft Foods & Beers for Every Taste Bud

Will the Beer Shortage Impact Both Bigger Breweries and Microbreweries?

The beer shortage will likely impact microbreweries more than large producers like Budweiser, Michelob and Miller. According to IBISWorld, "A microbrewery produces a limited amount of beer, typically no more than 6.0 million barrels (189,000,000 US gallons) of beer per year."

Big breweries can more easily handle the effects of the CO2 shortage than microbreweries can. The bigger breweries have access to expensive machinery that recreates the effects of CO2. The same is not true for microbreweries which typically cannot afford that machinery. 

Unfortunately, many craft beer breweries simply can't afford the extra costs and are being forced to shut down.

What Else Does The CO2 Shortage Effect?

  • Dry ice: After all, it's basically frozen CO2. It's important for keeping food frozen during delivery.

  • Soft drinks and seltzers: Besides beer, soft drinks and seltzers also rely on CO2 for carbonation. Without it, the drinks fall flat.

  • Cold cuts and frozen foods: Carbon dioxide is used to help preserve cold cuts as well as certain frozen foods like vegetables and pizza.

Next up, This Limited Edition Beer is Brewed With Auntie Anne's Pretzels!