West Midlands brewers move to reassure drinkers as bottled beer shortage looms

Beer drinkers can rest easy – a global shortage of glass won't lead to a rationing of their favourite tipple.

Breweries across the West Midlands offered reassurance after warnings that the UK is on the brink of a bottled beer shortage.

One leading wholesaler says suppliers are already starting to deal with a glassware shortage, as prices jumped by 80 per cent in the last 12 months due to rising energy costs.

The warning comes after beer experts in Germany said the country could be facing a glassware shortage this summer, with their small and medium-sized breweries expected to bear the brunt.

It is only a matter of time before the shortage is felt within the UK's beer industry, according to Julie Dunn, operations director at one of Scotland's largest wholesalers, Dunns Food and Drinks.

She said: "It won't be long before the glassware shortages hits UK consumers. Our wine and spirits suppliers from around the globe are facing ongoing struggles that will have a knock-on effect.

"As a result, there could be less variety in the bottled beers we see on UK shelves. Specialist bottles and glassware hold a very important place in the heritage of the beer industry and I expect that while some breweries will convert to cans to ensure consistent supply, others will look at this as devaluing the brand, so will inevitably pass the additional cost onto beer drinkers.

"We sell a huge amount of beer from Germany, so I would expect us to feel a fairly seismic hit in the very near future. However, Dunns will always endeavour to source the best possible range it can."

Businesses in the West Midlands say they are aware of the problems but that there is no need to panic.

Director of Edwin Holden's Bottling Company, Mark Hammond, said that the Woodsetton business, which buys in all its bottles, was experiencing some problems with importing bottles from Europe but supply from the UK was "pretty steady".

"We have no current shortage of bottles," he added.

The business in George Street, which carries out bottling for Holden's Brewery and breweries across the West Midlands and further afield, was at full capacity during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Mr Hammond said demand for bottling had slowed since then.

Wolverhampton-based Carlsberg Marston's Brewing Company, which has a bottling plant in Burton upon Trent, said its procurement team had reported that it had a good supply of glass bottles for CMBC in the UK.

"We do not see any supply issues on the horizon that will directly impact us," said spokesman Edward Halliday.

Beer accounts for more than £7.1 billion of spend in 2020 – putting it as the most popular, alcoholic drink choice in the UK.

A marked shift towards people opting to drink beer at home rather than in hospitality venues was noted in 2017, with more than 53 per cent of all beer sales happening off trade – an increase of 20 per cent since 2000.

Scottish brewers have already taken action to combat the rising production costs. Edinburgh-based brewery Vault City Brewing will switch to predominantly can-only releases next month.

Steven Smith-Hay, the company's co-founder, said: "We started introducing cans to our release schedule in January because of rising costs and challenges with availability.

"This was initially just for our session sours and supermarket range, but because production prices are so high, we've decided to make all our beers can-only from June, with the exception of a few special releases each year."

Mr Smith-Hay said the company are paying approximately 65p per bottle currently - which is around 15p more than six months ago.

He added: "If you think about the volume of beer we're bottling even as a microbrewery, the costs really start to pile up. It's just not viable to keep going in that direction."

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