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Beer lovers aren't going to be happy about the U.S. carbon dioxide shortage

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

The U.S. is short on carbon dioxide, which could be a buzzkill for beer drinkers. But don't take my word for it. Listen to Rich Gottwald, president of the Compressed Gas Association.

RICH GOTTWALD: It provides the bubbles. It provides the foam in the beer. CO2 is used for carbonation.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The Compressed Gas Association - this is a thing. He says the lack of CO2 is hurting breweries.

GOTTWALD: That's the No. 1 reason why the beer industry is feeling that shortfall right now, 'cause there's really no good substitutes for that.

MARTINEZ: The pandemic drove up demand and prices for CO2. It was needed to make dry ice to transport COVID-19 vaccines. It's another hit for small brewers, such as Bryan Van Den Oever of Red Bear Brewing in Washington, D.C.

BRYAN VAN DEN OEVER: We opened our doors in March of 2019, so we had one glorious, wonderful year of operations, and then everything went into lockdown.

INSKEEP: And then just as the pandemic lockdowns seem to be easing, this happened.

VAN DEN OEVER: We've talked to our supplier, and our supplier basically told us they were not taking on any new clients to make sure that their long-term clients have a steady supply of CO2.

MARTINEZ: So Van Den Oever has what he needs for now but still worries if his supply will hold up. He says bigger breweries are capturing the CO2 from their beer production and reusing it, but that's not an option for him.

VAN DEN OEVER: Unfortunately, that doesn't work for our size of brewery. We're so small that equipment would be too costly and not efficient on our scale.

INSKEEP: Red Bear may have to keep looking for other ways to make sure their beer business is not flat.

(SOUNDBITE OF JUJ'S "JUGGALO GIGOLOS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.