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'Everything is delayed': Supply chain backlog leads to issues for local breweries

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Global shipping delays and port backlogs are impacting several local Regina breweries.

Mark Heise, president and CEO of Rebellion Brewing, said supply chain issues are making it more challenging to get their beer to shelves lately.

“Whether it’s getting our packaging, whether it’s cardboard or aluminum cans, whether it’s the raw ingredients such as barley, hops or fruit. Everything is delayed,” Heise said.

As a result, Rebellion has been forced to delay several product launches this fall.

“Say we’re getting some special, exotic, tropical fruit from Asia. We would pay for it and we would know that it would be here in roughly two weeks. Well, instead, it might take three to six months (now),” he said. “That’s pretty tough to plan a beer release around.”

Furthermore, Heise said this year’s harvest was “not good at all” for barley, which is one of the main ingredients in beer.

“The suppliers that we buy from are sending us almost weekly updates, continuing to tell us that the price is going up and the quality is going down,” Heise said.

To stay ahead of the packaging material shortages, Rebellion purchased a six-month supply of cans and is warehousing them.

“So, we’re putting out a lot of cash that we don’t necessarily have and we’re paying storage fees to store cans, to make sure we don’t run out,” he said.

For Bushwakker Brewpub, it’s the same issue but with different materials.

“Getting enough glass bottles, as well as two-litre plastic bottles for our beer. So, the supply chain is kind of hit and miss and the prices are definitely going up,” said Grant Frew, bar manager at Bushwakker Brewpub.

Frew said their shortages extend into the kitchen as well.

“Produce and meats and dairy, everything is going up (in price),” Frew said. “But, the unusual thing is, things like portion cups and take-out containers, they’re very difficult to find and again those prices are going up.”

According to Jason Childs, University of Regina associate professor of economics, these supply chain issues are connected to COVID-19. Industries that shrank during the pandemic are now trying to reopen, and therefore, demanding inventory at the same time.

“We’re ramping back up, and as shipping starts to return to its normal volumes, we’re seeing this bunch try to go through at the same time. The transportation networks just don’t have the excess capacity to push all that stuff through at once,” said Childs.

Childs said he doesn’t see this ending anytime soon, so he said breweries may need to focus on sourcing what they can locally, or try other options.

“Kegs are going to become more of a popular item. You’re going to see different ways of delivering product,” he said.

Similarly to increased food costs leading to higher restaurant prices, the increased cost of packaging materials will likely be passed along to the customer, Childs said.

Heading into the holiday season, Heise said he just asks that people be understanding of the situation when shopping for their favourite items.

“Planning ahead is probably a good idea at this point,” he said. “And if products are out of stock, just please be patient with retailers and staff. We’re all really trying our best.” 

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