Local brewers also stagger under national rising cost of production

 

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — The beer industry is still another victim of supply chain shortages, and local brewers are being hit the hardest. Rising costs of everything from aluminum to fruit might make it tougher for manufacturers to craft your favorite brew.

Products are scarce.

“We had a really poor barley crop in both the US and Canada brought on by a super hot and dry summer, and that’s increased barley and malt prices for brewers,” said Bart Watson, chief economist for the Brewer’s Association.

These scarcities are making it tough for brewers to keep up.

“We do a lot of fruited beers — and fruit costs have gone up significantly, or we can’t even get them,” said Phil Humphrey, owner of 608 Brewing Company in La Crosse. “Every piece of our process has seen some kind of price increase.”

Smaller brewers will likely feel it the most.

“They’re less likely to have large contracts that can you know push against these price increases,” Watson said.

This forces brewers to make a choice.

“Either you get a lower margin on beer you’re selling, or you raise prices and risk some of that push-back,” Watson said.

So far, local brewers are choosing to lower their profit margin.

“We raised our prices one time this year for our local customers, unfortunately, but we’re still kind of behind the curve on that,” said Joe Katchever, owner of Pearl Street Brewery in La Crosse.

“We’re trying to not raise the prices on our flagship beers — trying to keep them at the same price,” Humphrey said.

But there is no telling what’s to come.

“You never know what’s going to happen, so you do what makes sense at the time,” Humphrey said.

At this point, the most cost-effective way to enjoy your brew is straight from the tap, local brewers say.

Since Ukraine is also a big producer of barley, an essential ingredient in most beers, the brewers are steeling themselves for still another cost increase resulting from Russia’s invasion there.

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