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Aluminum can supply issues could impact craft beer prices

Great Revivalist Brew Lab in Geneseo is still able to get the supplies it needs to can its products, but because the company uses a wholesaler, prices may go up.

GENESEO, Ill. — The price of craft beer might be going up soon.

One of the nation's largest manufacturers of aluminum cans is now requiring breweries to buy large numbers of empty cans or take their business elsewhere.

At Great Revivalist Brew Lab in Geneseo, aluminum is central to daily business.

"I typically go through two to three pallets of cans a month," said Scott Lehnert, the owner of the brewery.

A pallet is about 7,000 cans, Lehnert said. He recently bought five pallets worth, or about 35,000 cans, for production during the holiday season.

Lehnert said he is not getting his aluminum cans from a large distributor, but is instead going through a wholesaler.

"I wish we went through enough cans to get them through Ball Corp," Lehnert said. "But it seems even a few years back, they started making it so you always had to buy a little bit larger quantity."

That manufacturer recently raised the minimum number of cans a business or brewery must buy from about 200,000 to about 1 million. At Great Revivalist Brew Lab, that amount of cans to be on hand simply isn't feasible.

"No, definitely not," Lehnert said. "You need a nice sized warehouse for that."

The wholesaler Lehnert uses allows him to only buy what he needs, meaning big corporations, like Ball, do not need to sell directly to smaller businesses that order fewer cans.

However, there is one catch.

"When we started out, we were probably paying about 14 cents a can," Lehnert said. "Now we’re up to, I think with this last shipment that we received less than a month ago, was about 33 cents a can, so it’s more than double."

That cost is then passed on to the consumer, Lehnert said.

"It's a shame," he said. "We just see this happening everywhere."

Because the brewery uses a wholesaler for its supplies, Lehnert said he has not had any problems getting what he needs.

"It works, but of course now you've got another step in there, so its more money," Lehnert said.

This process has also forced Lehnert to think even further ahead, often thinking at least one month ahead of what he will need for ordering so he has the supplies he needs, Lehnert said.

"I don't want to be the reason why we're out of a product," he said.

Lehnert said prices for other products he is buying are going up, too, including plastic and cardboard. He said part of that reason is due to truck driver shortages.