The coronavirus pandemic has completely shut down some of the biggest spring events where people gathered to celebrate, including March Madness, the NBA playoffs, the NHL playoffs, the beginning of the MLB season, The Masters, SXSW, Coachella, and St. Patrick's Day. These massively popular events were big drinking occasions, whether at the event or watching at a bar. Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, all of those kegs at stadiums and bars are going stale. The national emergency gets worse every day.
There are currently millions of gallons of beer just sitting around and not being tapped because of stay-at-home orders. Non-pasteurized draft beer typically lasts about 45-60 days, and pasteurized draft beer will stay fresh for approximately 90-120 days. Many of the state-mandated lockdowns went into effect in mid-March, meaning there is a real concern for beer companies that all of those kegs of brew could go to waste. Would anyone be willing to help take a few thousand kegs off their hands?
"This was the absolute worst time for this to happen for draft beer," Craig Purser, chief executive of the National Beer Wholesalers Association, told the Wall Street Journal. "We have never ever seen an interruption like this where everything freezes in place."
The beer industry's troubles ramped up in March when roughly 10 million gallons of suds were abandoned in venues that month alone, according to an NBWA estimate. That is the equivalent of almost one million kegs. Even more beer is stuck at distributors' warehouses, in transit from other countries and in breweries. Unsold and expiring beer could cost the beer industry as much as $1 billion, according to the NBWA.
For the week ending March 14, total beer dollar sales increased 14% compared to a year ago, according to Nielsen. However, that doesn't make up for on-premise sales in bars, restaurants, taprooms, and tasting rooms, which amounts to approximately 20 percent of the total beer volume in the United States.
Boston Beer, the parent company of Sam Adams, has developed a novel idea on what to do with those millions of gallons of expiring beer. Boston Beer, which is the second-largest craft brewer in the U.S., will take the expiring beer and distill the booze into ethanol so that it can be blended into gasoline.
While there is an overabundance of beer kegs, there is a potential shortage in the national supply of compressed carbon dioxide, which makes beer and soda fizzy.