Brewers brace for impacts of tariffs

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Chazz Oesch wraps plastic wrap around kegs at BDD Brewing Company at the Rocky Mount Mills.

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By Julie Havlak

Monday, August 6, 2018

The escalating trade war will hit North Carolina craft breweries hard.

North Carolina exports $32.6 billion in goods, supporting more than 150,000 jobs, and $1.1 billion of state exports are under fire in the trade disputes, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce report says.

As the United States and its largest trading partners levy ever-increasing tariffs, craft brewers face either losing thousands or hiking prices for consumers. Expect to pay an extra buck for a six-pack of craft beer once the tariffs on aluminum inflate the prices of cans, brewers say. More than half of the beer annually produced in the U.S. comes in cans, according to the Beer Institute.

Foothills Brewery in Winston-Salem will dodge the tariffs’ full effects because they bottle instead of can, but it still will bleed $18,000 from the cost increase in bottle caps, said Foothills president Jamie Bartholomaus.

“Everything in the brewery is made of stainless steel, heavy and durable stuff. So really, everywhere you look, even caps,” Bartholomaus said. “If you use nine million caps, everything adds up. That’s [an] $18,000 increase for us in caps because of the tariffs. That’s significant; for a small brewery that is a lot of money.”

Craft brewers lack the resources to absorb the costs.

“Brewers make money when they are efficient, and small craft brewers are the opposite of efficient,” Bartholomaus said. “We employ a lot of people and tell a lot of stories. That makes our industry lovable, but that inefficiency hurts us … we can’t absorb this. We’re not making millions of dollars.”


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