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Running out of fizz: St. John's breweries worried over CO2 shortage

·3 min read
Christina Coady is co-owner and brewmaster at Landwash Brewery in Mount Pearl. She's hopeful that the brewery's CO2 supply will be enough for the busy holiday season. (Henrike Wilhelm/CBC - image credit)
Christina Coady is co-owner and brewmaster at Landwash Brewery in Mount Pearl. She's hopeful that the brewery's CO2 supply will be enough for the busy holiday season. (Henrike Wilhelm/CBC - image credit)
Henrike Wilhelm/CBC
Henrike Wilhelm/CBC

Supply chain issues causing a shortage of carbon dioxide are impacting two St. John's breweries and their ability to brew beer.

Christina Coady is co-owner and brewmaster at Landwash Brewery in Mount Pearl, and says they've already been impacted by the shortage.

"We had one week where we were fully out of CO2 and we weren't able to can anything. So it can have a major impact on us very quickly," said Coady.

"When we run out of CO2, we're pretty much at a standstill."

Landwash typically fills between 3,000 to 10,000 cans every week. But CO2, says Coady, is vital to much more than just the canning process.

Likely unknown to the average beer drinker, the gas is needed in every step of the process. It's used in pushing the beer from the tank to the brite, to clean kegs, carbonate, dry hop, can, keg and pour the beer from the tap.

Henrike Wilhelm/CBC
Henrike Wilhelm/CBC

For several months, says Coady, the delivery of CO2 has been inconsistent — a problem caused by the pandemic and its supply chain issues.

"A lot of items in our supply chains have become more and more difficult [to find], but CO2 has definitely been the most stand-out in its difficulty to maintain," she said.

The issue is spilling over to other breweries as well.

Phil Maloney, co-owner of Bannerman Brewing Co. in downtown St. John's, looks at Coady's comments with worry.

He hasn't experienced any delays over the past months, but has recently started to feel the impact of the shortage as well.

"I wasn't really aware of it until about last week when I just heard kind of chatter and rumours about it," said Maloney. "I called our local supplier and sure enough, it's true. There's definitely a shortage."

Both breweries get their CO2 from global supplier Linde, which sources CO2 for the Atlantic provinces from New Brunswick. While Landwash gets a CO2 delivery between every seven to 10 days, Bannerman gets its tank filled every two weeks.

But Maloney says the supplier hasn't give them much in terms of answers.

"They're kind of just saying that it's a shortage, like there might not be any next week. And just to keep calling back," he said.

"Right now, it's just a waiting game and just calling and hoping you get the right person. So it's a bit unfortunate to be a little bit in the dark there."

Linde didn't respond to requests for comment by CBC News as of publishing.

With no other supplier on the local market they could switch to, Malone says Bannerman is going to be hard hit if the CO2 supply dries up.

"Maybe we would stop packaging beer and just have it in house to try and get us through December," said Maloney.

He plans to fill up as many portable tanks as possible and keep them as a backup — but they will only be a Band-Aid solution.

Back at Landwash, Coady plans to do the same. She's hopeful the shortage won't affect operations during the Christmas season.

Henrike Wilhelm/CBC
Henrike Wilhelm/CBC

"We try to keep several small canisters of CO2 always on hand, so we can at least serve beer," said Coady. "[We're] making sure that we can keep our tank as full as possible and hope that we can make it through the holidays."

Meanwhile, Maloney wonders whether his brewery will miss out on one of the busiest months of the year.

"It's a little bit worrisome for sure," said Maloney.

"We're just trying to calmly figure out, 'What do we do? What's Plan B or a contingency plan or what have you', and hope for the best. And I mean, there's not really much else we can do."

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