Western drought puts pressure on beer brewers

·1 min read
Shoreline Malting grows barley on several farms on P.E.I., and Island Malt House grows around the Maritimes. (Shoreline Malting - image credit)
Shoreline Malting grows barley on several farms on P.E.I., and Island Malt House grows around the Maritimes. (Shoreline Malting - image credit)

Producers of barley malt on P.E.I., a key ingredient for beer, have been getting calls from brewers scrambling for supply following a poor growing season in Western Canada and the U.S. Midwest.

Redmer Renkema of Island Malt House said a hot, dry spring cut yields almost in half, and there have been issues with supply from other parts of the world as well.

"Some clients of ours who buy from Europe have logistic issues already," Renkema told Island Morning host Laura Chapin.

Both Renkema and John Webster of Shoreline Malting have been getting calls from current customers, looking for more supply, as well as calls from potential new ones.

But there is only so much the Island malters can do to help out. Both have sufficient supplies for their current customers with little room for growth.

"We can't turn on a dime," said Webster.

"We are looking at expansion plans for the malting. Our priority is our existing customers and making sure we have them covered and we're getting increased asks from them."

Sustainable growth

While there may be opportunities to pick up new customers, both Renkema and Webster said they will be cautious about growth.

"As a rule Western Canada will be cheaper than what we are," said Webster.

"We're looking to grow in a sustainable way with brewers that appreciate that there is a local supply for them."

Both Renkema and Webster said their prices could go up this year, but that is mostly about increases in the cost of growing barley.

As for the price of beer, Webster said it will be up to the brewers whether to raise the price and risk losing market share, or to just absorb the cost themselves.

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