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'We’re just trying to survive': Omaha brewery feeling pressure of rising aluminum prices

Posted at 10:38 PM, Mar 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-08 23:38:18-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Over the past two years, the rising price of aluminum has been putting pressure on local breweries that use the metal for canning. And now with sanctions on Russia, those prices could get even higher.

Brickway Brewery and Distillery have been feeling the effects of these increased prices during the pandemic.

"All of our products, both our beers and our canned cocktails are in aluminum," Zac Triemart, master brewer and president. "And canned prices haven’t just gone up a little bit. They’ve gone up 50%.”

Right now they’re now paying 15 cents for each can. That may not seem like much, but with 24 cans in a case, that adds up to over $3.60 a case just on the canning.

He said the raw materials for their product, as well as glass for their spirits and oak barrels for their maturing process, are also in short supply.

Naturally, they’ve had to raise their prices to keep up.

"We’re not putting a single more cent in our pocket," Triemart said. "We’re just trying to survive and make a reasonable margin.”

Dr. Peter Zhu, a supply chain expert at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, says aluminum canning prices rose at the beginning of the pandemic when more people were buying canned alcohol to take home rather than drinking in a bar.

Now the aluminum coming from Russia, the third-largest producer of aluminum in the world with 6% of the global production, is unavailable.

"Because of the ongoing sanctions because of the war, of course, Russia cannot sell this percent of aluminum to the market," Zhu said.

The automobile, construction, distillery and other industries are all being hit by this.

Zhu says they could find a new material to use, but that will take time and resources.

They could also use another source to get aluminum, but many counties are having to avoid Russian airspace which makes distribution slow. Zhu says bringing products by sea is also a slow process right now.

And for the small business like Brickway, the wait for what they need is already long

"It’s generally the large national brands that get the supply first, and then it trickles down eventually to all of us small businesses," Triemart said. "So it’s hitting the small business much harder.”

Zhu says consumers don't have much control in this situation, but one way they can help is by keeping aluminum in the community.

"Maybe previously, people didn’t pay too much attention, but if they can try to recycle those aluminum things," Zhu said. "It will at least help the industry.”

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