Carbon dioxide production shortage in Mississippi puts pressure on Michigan’s beer industry

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Michigan’s craft beer industry might be facing pressure at the taps as a carbon dioxide shortage in Mississippi could greatly impact local production.

One of the nation’s largest gas production hubs that produces carbon dioxide has been contaminated. It’s located in Jackson Dome, Mississippi.

The president of Advanced Cryogenics sent NBC News an email stating that a possible shift in the geology of the region near Jackson Dome has released contaminants in gas wells. The contaminants have disrupted the production of carbon dioxide, and brewers are some of many who will most likely be impacted.

Carbon dioxide is used during the fermentation process of brewing. The gas helps to create a seal for the beer between the brewed and bottling stages, preserving the freshness of the beer.

President of Old Nation Brewery Travis Fritts said he talked to many local breweries in mid-Michigan and some stress has been expressed because of the shortage, but local carbon dioxide providers have been making sure orders are being delivered.

“We are seeing carbon dioxide raising drastically in price -- and while we are not seeing those effects immediately, it’s like everything else when there is a pinch somewhere that doesn’t mean that there is a pinch where you are but means that prices will increase,” said Fritts. “And that is going to create a ripple effect that truly may hurt breweries and will be reflected with increased costs at the shelves and at the bars”

Fritts explains that beer is supposed to have carbonation, and the reason why it’s expected is because of the way that yeast continues to ferment in the barrels that it was originally shipped in. Brewers can still capture carbon dioxide, but what is problematic is that after the beer is done fermenting, there is a need to make sure that no oxygen comes in contact with the beer so the product doesn’t become oxidized. Laying a blanket of carbon dioxide keeps the beer under pressure, prevents the beer from oxidizing and helps to push the beer out of barrels when needed.

Baffin Brewing out of St. Clair Shores is one of many Michigan breweries experiencing the impact of the contamination.

Below is a statement from Baffin:

Griffin Claw Brewing Company based out of Birmingham told Local 4 that they are fortunate their carbon dioxide supplier has been reliable and keeps them in the loop about the shortage. Marketing director Christopher Lasher said that the company installed new equipment a couple of years ago that captures carbon dioxide waste that would normally reenter the atmosphere during the fermentation process. The company is instead cleaning it and allowing production staff to reuse the carbon dioxide.

“This helps offset our carbon dioxide usage quite a bit at the same time reducing our carbon footprint,” said Lasher.

Local 4 also reached out to larger Michigan breweries, including Bell’s Brewery, about the issue and they said they cannot comment on the topic.