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Aluminum can shortage affecting local producers, consumers

The company that makes Dr. Pepper has announced its products are currently harder to find on shelves, and it is the latest major brand to announce a shortage during the pandemic. But it’s not just soda companies, Central Coast beer companies are also facing a shortage struggle.

Pismo Beach resident Scott Taylor said he can’t find his favorite beverage at most local stores, and if he does find it, there aren’t many of them.

"All of a sudden I noticed there was only one 24-pack of diet Dr. Pepper left,” Taylor said. “I can't run short on DDP, that’s my coffee.”

Taylor admits when he does find more than one on the shelves, he’ll buy a few.

“Yeah, I am part of the problem because I am stockpiling,” Taylor said.

There’s less because beer and soda production has been slowed to a crawl. According to The Aluminum Association, manufacturers are seeing “unprecedented demand” because of the pandemic and the nation is running low on new aluminum cans.

“Definitely waiting on cans is one of our new hobbies,” said Lee Samways, co-owner of Humdinger Brewing in Arroyo Grande.

Samways said because of the shortage, the company has had to downsize its 32-ounce canned beer for a 25.4-ounce because larger-sized aluminum cans can’t be found.

“We were using cans that aren’t really normal for the brewing industry to use,” Samways said. “But we could put beer in it, and people would take it home—so it worked!”

Samways said it also just takes longer now to get an order of any size aluminum can.

“Our first order was in like a week,” Samways said. “After that every single order has taken a month, six weeks, just to get the cans in just to ship them to us.”

This is just one of the many obstacles Samways has had to deal with being a business owner navigating the economic obstacles of a pandemic.

A new venture, Humdinger Brewing was set to open on St. Patrick’s Day, but an executive health order in San Luis Obispo County meant no alcohol sales for the holiday weekend.

Then Samways had to deal with opening, and closing, and re-opening with modifications ever since...and now an aluminum can shortage on top of that. But he stays optimistic.

“Yeah, we want to have a survival story, not some sob story,” Samways said. “So we are just going to keep on plugging away and keep our chins up and our smiles on.”

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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