Soccer fans in the U.K. might be in for a nasty shock and it has nothing to do with the score of their next match. The U.K. is facing a beer shortage and it’s already affecting the amount of product getting to consumers. Wholesalers have started limiting the number of cases they sell to bars and grocers in hopes there will be enough to go around.
So how does an entire country run out of beer during one of the busiest times for bars and pubs? Good question. A number of factors have conspired to get here, but it all started with fertilizer. Yes, the stuff you put on your lawn.
A crucial factor in beer production is the carbon dioxide (CO2). Not only is it what makes the stuff bubbly, it’s also instrumental in getting draft beer from the keg to your glass. CO2 is also essential to pop, sparkling water, meat production, food packaging and a number of other things. Basically, CO2 is in a lot of stuff and the U.K. is running out of it fast.
CO2 is a byproduct of ammonia which is a key ingredient in fertilizer. Currently, only one out of three ammonia processing plants in the U.K. are fully operational, leading to the concerning shortage. One of the plants is down for scheduled maintenance and another is experiencing technical problems that are limiting its production. The lag in supply coupled with the increased demand from World Cup viewers makes the perfect storm for a beer drought.
The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) says it’s not time to panic yet, but Heineken issued a statement Tuesday confirming that supplies of certain drafts are already being affected. Currently, the government is prioritizing meat production and food packaging over beer production in its allotment of CO2 so “drinking in moderation” is more important than ever. Eighty-two per cent of the U.K.’s beer is produced domestically so there aren’t a lot of options other than rationing what they’ve got.
There’s some good news though. According to the chief of the BBPA, one of the inactive plants could be back up and running by the weekend. Unfortunately, she also said the country won’t feel the relief for about three weeks.
Orange juice, anyone?