The coronavirus pandemic could take the bubbles out of soda and beer
Breweries could struggle to find the fizz if the pandemic disrupts supply lines. Image: Marijan Murat / picture alliance via Getty Images By Alex Perry2020-04-18 17:11:58 UTC Beer makers could soon struggle with a shortage of bubbles. A new...
Beer makers could soon struggle with a shortage of bubbles.
A new report from Reuters painted a potentially grim picture for those who rely on the bubbly nature of soda, seltzer, and beer to get through their socially distant routines. Beverage makers rely on carbon dioxide to get the fizz in their products, but that could be thwarted by, of all things, a lack of demand for gasoline.
According to Reuters, gas demand is down 30 percent in the U.S. as people have been encouraged or forced to stay inside. That has reduced the incentive for some plants to produce ethanol because it's tied to the gasoline industry. It turns out that ethanol producers like to capture and sell the CO2 that comes as a byproduct of ethanol production, but if they aren't making ethanol, they aren't making CO2, either.
Without the usual supply of CO2, brewers and other drink makers have to pay more for the gas that is available. While bigger manufacturers might be able to take the hit in the short term, smaller brewers could struggle to meet demand and suffer as a result.
In the case of beer, at least, there are ways to carbonate the drink without using CO2. Beverage Factory has a good explanation of "natural carbonation," an old-fashioned process popular with home brewers. It does apparently produce a different mouthfeel for the beer, but the more pertinent issue might be that it's much more time consuming than forcing carbonation with gas.
These are unprecedented times and there's no certainty about what the next day carries, much less what the coming weeks and months will bring. Maybe beer and soda production will suffer, but maybe other carbonation methods can be used to keep the supply lines running. All we know is that, if beer stops being readily available, it's about to be a problem.