Suffolk’s pubs and breweries face anxious wait as CO2 shortage threatens world cup beer supplies

Alec Williamson of Calvors brewing Suffolk Graduate beer.

Alec Williamson of Calvors brewing Suffolk Graduate beer. - Credit: Archant

Pubs, breweries and drinks makers in East Anglia say they are “monitoring the situation” after warnings that CO2 shortages could see the UK run out of beer and fizzy drinks ahead of a weekend of World Cup festivities and summer barbecues.

The new look for Calvors' range of bottled beers.

The new look for Calvors' range of bottled beers. - Credit: Archant

The shortages are understood to have been caused by a longer than usual break in production of ammonia, one of the key sources of food grade CO2 in Europe – which is used to carbonate drinks and preserve some packed fresh foods.

Supplies of Heineken’s John Smith’s Extra Smooth and Amstel kegs have been hit by the shortage, and Karen Smith, landlady of the Dove Inn real ale pub in Dove Street, Ipswich, said they will have run out of the two beers “by the weekend.”

Alec Williamson, who runs Calvors Brewery near Needham Market in Suffolk, said he still had around three weeks’ worth of supplies of CO2 left but had never encountered the problem before in a decade of trading.

“I understand that the manufacturers of a few facilities are being shut down for maintenance at the same time. Doing that at the same time as the world cup is on seems ridiculous to me,” he said. “We don’t have any contingency plans yet, but we could move more to more real ale production over lager. I’m surprised that a big brewer like Heineken has this issue. They should have a recovery system in place to counter the problem.”

Lee Saunders, landlord of the White Horse pub in Rede Rd, Whepstead, said he had a bottle of CO2 left which he expected would last another two weeks.

“The problem is that co2 powers all of our pumps so without it, we can’t pump the beer, including ale, from the barrels to the bar,” he said.

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“Not all pubs will be affected in that regard, as some use electric compressors, but it will affect a lot of pubs.”

Mr Saunders called Boc, his CO2 gas suppliers, who allowed him to order another bottle of CO2, but he explained that he wasn’t permitted to order any extras. “All the pubs are trying to order extra Co2 in right now and they don’t want people panic buying, because that will cause more problems,” he said.

East Anglian brewers and drinks makers including Greene King, Britvic and Adnams have said they have not yet been affected but are monitoring the situation closely, while Wetherspoon admitted a continuing shortage could hit its pubs.

A spokesperson from Molson Coors, who bought Suffolk’s Aspall Cider brand earlier this year, said: “As a result of the investment we have made in CO2 recovery systems, Molson Coors is fortunately able to generate most of our own CO2 for production and packaging of our major brands. For our smaller breweries, we are working with CO2 suppliers to maintain the supply. We can confirm we are still brewing and packaging and orders based on normal levels are being fulfilled.”

Trade journal Gas World said the shortage had been described as the “worst supply situation to hit the European carbon dioxide (CO2) business in decades”.