Corner Point Brewing owner and head brewer Jamie Blood with Hefen Help Us, a Hefeweizen beer in aluminum cans at the Berwick brewery. Blood said his can supplier told him that further shipments aren’t guaranteed. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

If Corner Point Brewing founder Jamie Blood had known six weeks ago there was going to be a nationwide aluminum can shortage, he might not have purchased a new canning line for his small Berwick brewery.

Now, his can supplier is telling him there’s no guarantee he’ll get further shipments. That’s a problem, considering they make up most of his sales, along with pints sold to customers sitting outside at the tasting room.

“If the weather starts getting cold and we can’t have people inside and we don’t have cans to sell curbside, we will go under,” Blood said. “It’s a scary thing.”

Aluminum cans of beer on display in a refrigerator at Corner Point Brewing Co. in Berwick. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The aluminum can manufacturing industry has seen “unprecedented demand” for cans during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to The Aluminum Association, an industry group based in Washington, D.C. The association said that consumers who are spending more time at home prefer canned beverages because the containers are easily portable and storable.

Can manufacturers have been operating at capacity with “no quick or easy way to increase production,” according to the national Brewers Association. With keg sales to restaurants and bars down, local breweries are concerned about losing out on more business if they can’t keep up their can supply.

“All of those sales channels have been squeezed with COVID restrictions in place and instead are going towards off-premises sales,” said Sean Sullivan, executive director of Maine Brewers’ Guild.

Sullivan said that although almost all aluminum cans used by brewers are made in the United States, the raw material often comes from Canada, on which a 10 percent tariff, reimposed by President Trump on Aug. 6, is also contributing to the shortage.

According to the Brewers Association, smaller brewers, like Corner Point Brewing, which goes through about 2,400 cans per month, are more likely to have their orders delayed or canceled, but larger local breweries are also concerned about maintaining their can supply and are trying to plan accordingly.

Cans on the line at Mast Landing Brewing Co. in Westbrook, which has gone through cans more quickly than usual during the pandemic. Courtesy Mast Landing Co.

Mast Landing Brewing Company in Westbrook goes through about 300,000 cans per month, or two full truckloads, and tries to keep a full truckload of cans at all times.

“We have a contract with our supplier that we thought would get us through the year, but with having to switch packaging away from kegs and only into cans, we chewed through our contract at a more rapid pace than anticipated,” said Ian Dorsey, Mast Landing’s president and CEO.

Baxter Brewing Co. in Lewiston, which usually goes through 390,000 cans per month, has had to wait longer for shipments of cans.

“The biggest impact is (having to) plan months and months ahead of time,” said Baxter president Jenn Lever. “There’s no shortages as of right now, but it’s certainly a bigger part of our conversations. We’re just trying to get ahead of a shortage.”

The Brewers Association is urging brewers to consider other types of packaging in order to continue meeting customer demand. Some local brewers, Sullivan said, have been searching for solutions by purchasing bulk orders and splitting the orders up among competitors or working with mobile canning companies.

“We have had some luck getting our hands on extra cans,” said Dorsey of Mast Landing. “But I am worried about what could happen this fall/winter if/when things shut down again.”

Lone Pine Brewing Company, which goes through roughly 200,000 cans per month at its Gorham facility and tries to keep about a month supply on hand, is confident that the shortage won’t affect production.

“(Our supplier has) done a really good job in planning for an expected shortage, and we’ve been ensured we shouldn’t have any issue getting cans for the rest of the year and into 2021,” said Zach Page, head brewer at Lone Pine. “We have a really good relationship with our can supplier and made sure to be in constant communication with them about our needs.”


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