Pandemic Business

Our Worst Fears Realized: Inflation Driving Up Price of Beer, Craft Beverages

Inflation means each six-pack costs more to make. NBC 7 Responds looked at how San Diego's breweries are dealing with rising prices

NBC Universal, Inc.

Your next six-pack could cost you a little more. Inflation is costing breweries more to make and bottle their drinks, and some of those costs are being passed onto you. With a pandemic and now, rising prices, many breweries are looking for ways to keep their doors open.

"I feel like Boba Fett in the Sarlacc pit," said Josh Hembree, co-founder of Setting Sun Sake Brewing Co. "You know, like I'm just trying to escape and it's not working well."

Setting Sun Sake Brewing opened its doors to the public in 2016. It was one of the first sake breweries in the U.S. and Hembree said a lot of people are surprised it's brewed like a beer.

"It's because of the alcohol content and the lack of knowledge about how it's made so people just call it a rice wine," said Hembree. "It's as close as it can be to beer without being beer."

Hembree is hoping to win people over to sake and has quite the team to help. Kim Rojas is a pastry chef who uses her culinary skills at Setting Sun to create a variety of sake-based cocktails with ingredients including curry and matcha.

They said the pandemic and inflation have made it harder on brewers, especially when it comes to cans and bottles.

"The cost of shipping bottles to us is more than the cost of the bottles," said Hembree. "Now everyone in San Diego is buying cans, so the cost of cans are going up. Cans were much easier to get before the pandemic, that's for sure."

The rising price of cans is just one of the costs factored into recent price hikes. The price of beer went up by 6% from June 2021 to June 2022 according to the Consumer Price Index, and the demand for aluminum cans is only expected to go up.

Hembree said trying to weather a pandemic, shipping and supply chain issues -- and now inflation -- has been too much for some of San Diego's breweries.

"It's pricing existing businesses out," said Hembree. "You know, businesses much larger than me aren't able to pivot as fast, they are succumbing to what's going on."

Setting Sun had to make some quick pivots to stay open. They raised prices, but also focused on expanding their online presence and plugging into their local community. There are also plans to expand and add a kitchen in the near future, as well as collaborate with other breweries to share some costs.

"We're actually gonna be combining our efforts," said Hembree. "I get to go back to brewing beer. I'll be brewing sake, I'll be brewing kombucha, seltzers, all kinds of stuff."

While there are still a lot of challenges to staying open, Hembree loves brewing sake and said he's in it for the long haul.

"I personally found it kind of like the final frontier of the brewing experience," said Hembree. "I hope other people enjoy it as well."

Contact Us