Beer crisis: why your local pubs could soon run dry

Beer crisis: why your local pubs could soon run dry
You may not be able to enjoy a freshly pulled pint at your local this summer, due to a carbon dioxide crisis (Photo: Shutterstock)

The UK is facing a shortage of carbon dioxide (CO2) which could leave manufacturers of beer and other fizzy drinks unable to keep up with heightened summer demand.

Just two plants produce CO2 in the UK, and one is currently closed for maintenance.

No CO2, no pint

Carbon dioxide isn’t just a key ingredient in soft drinks, canned or bottled beers – it also pushes beer through the pumps at pubs, and is even used to pack fresh meat and salads.

According to the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) – which represents brewers and 20,000 UK pubs – the CO2 shortage is beginning to cause stoppages in beer production. However, the organisation did not name specific companies affected.

The BBPA have stated that as much as 82 per cent of beer consumed in the UK is produced locally and requires carbon dioxide.

A supply crisis

The gas is a by-product of fertiliser manufacturing, but these factories often close down during summer, as demand for fertiliser peaks in winter.

Carbon dioxide is used in soft drinks, as well as beer (Photo: Shutterstock)
Carbon dioxide is used in soft drinks, as well as beer (Photo: Shutterstock)

At least five CO2 producers across northern Europe are reportedly closed for maintenance, and carbonated drinks producers are experiencing the worst carbon dioxide supply crisis for decades.

Researching safe, alternative sources

Drink manufacturers say they are working with other suppliers and researching alternative sources of carbon dioxide.

The BBPA have stressed that CO2 used in drinks – including for dispensing beer at the pumps – must be food grade to avoid health risks.