Santa Fe area breweries share their own tales of supply chain woe

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Loading dock views from SFBC, where the supply of cans is not an issue (yet).

It’s been a few weeks since we ran the article on the supply chain issues facing the New Mexico brewing industry, but the picture wouldn’t be complete without chatting with a few of the Santa Fe breweries, including a mixture of production facilities and brewpubs for good measure.

So let’s get jump back in, shall we? If you’re wondering why your Halloween costume didn’t show up when Amazon promised it would be there before October 31, or why another birthday present arrived a week late, or why no one can make Frito pies anymore, well, you’re not alone. And, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Oof. Now is not the time to start making boat jokes, even if we’re trying to keep things light.

Chances are, many of the goods, whether it’s merchandise, materials, food, and beer supplies are being delayed. Maybe they are stuck on a container ship somewhere, or their ground transportation was halted by a labor strike, or halted by COVID cases, or in many cases, producers of these goods are simply unable to catch up and keep up with the current levels of demand, after having slowed production during the pandemic shutdowns.

However it’s affected you and the businesses, the supply chain situation is in a tight spot, and hopefully you and the breweries won’t be waiting forever for your goods. OK, last joke, I swear.

Recently, I asked the Santa Fe breweries what issues they were experiencing specifically, and via email, phone, or over a beer or two, I got the skinny on the current slim-pickin’ situation facing Hidden Mountain, Rowley Farmhouse Ales, Second Street Brewery, and Santa Fe Brewing Co.

“German malt is an intermittent issue,” said Second Street owner/brewmaster Rod Tweet. “Cans are still an issue into next summer, but we’re pretty covered till then.”

What would Crab and Pilsner be without the right malts?

Paul Mallory, head brewer of Hidden Mountain Brewing Co. (formerly Blue Corn Brewery) was experiencing similar issues on a different scale. He explained, “We have had some delays in shipping of brewing ingredients, but it hasn’t been too bad. Like, the biggest delays we’ve seen have been tap handles and aluminum cans. We’ve also seen huge increases in prices for tap handles.”

This affected their ability to order new tap handles for their offsite accounts, which was especially rough during their major rebrand.

“On the brewery side, brite cans and can-ends have been the most challenging item to source,” said Rowley Farmhouse Ales chef/co-owner Jeffrey Kaplan. “We’re currently using several purveyors to make sure we have enough, and we’ve still had to delay packaging runs.”

“The only real supply chain issue for us at this time is frozen fruit purees,” Santa Fe Brewing Co. owner Brian Lock said. “Most of the issues are trying to get merchandise on time.”

At least none of these breweries’ seasonal beers have been delayed as a result, but Lock said that for some of next year’s releases, they’re already working on sourcing material and are experiencing some issues.

As for the brewpubs Hidden Mountain and Rowley, they faced unique issues related to the restaurant side of their operation.

What would game day be without wings at Hidden Mountain Brewery?

“We’ve had trouble getting chicken wings, cheese, Fritos, lids for to-go containers, et cetera,” Mallory said.

“For our food menu, we have to be able to change it according to what we can order. We’ve had to reprint menus frequently and communicate these changes to customers. We’ve had to remove items like salmon because of huge price increases.”

“Regarding food, we haven’t had too many issues, as we buy almost all of our products locally. We’ve been lucky and only had issues with big box items like plastic wrap, and to-go boxes,” Kaplan said.

On the other-other hand, Rowley Farmhouse Ales is also a craft beer bar with more than a few guest taps to consider.

“On the guest beer front, things have changed drastically, and it’s been super challenging to get kegs and bottles/cans,” Kaplan explained. “The distributors had to dump lots of product during the height of the pandemic and seem reluctant to replenish their full inventories. This has translated into far fewer options compared to before. It even seems (that) the distributors who carry all those brands that aren’t really different have replenished far more of those beers than the Independent Craft brands they carry.”

Drastic changes to available draft lists are everywhere!

One major asset that’s been hard to come by for everyone in Santa Fe has been good staff.

“(Due to staff shortage) we’re closed on Tuesday and Wednesday,” Mallory said. “I’m the only one here to receive orders on those days. Since I’m doing many of the deliveries and line cleaning due to COVID, I often miss those deliveries. Having the shipping companies coordinate with me sometimes is challenging.”

“My most problematic issue is trying to maintain three properties in working order,” Tweet said. “Trying to get HVAC or plumbers on site for repairs or improvements is next to impossible. In a couple cases we have been unable to open, because I can’t get anyone on site to fix something. I think they are also struggling with staffing issues.”

Relief in the form of returning to a sense of normalcy regarding food and material availability, as well as a return to a pricing system that isn’t gouging our restaurants doesn’t seem to be coming anytime soon, either. Food suppliers have communicated to Hidden Mountain that as the holidays approach, supply issues may get worse.

Lock said the suppliers are telling everyone to expect the issues to last through 2022.

Breweries always have to think about where their cans will come from next.

Many thanks to Paul Mallory, Jeffery Kaplan, Brian Lock, and Rod Tweet and all of the other breweries for responding to our questions. We certainly wish all of our breweries and businesses, both local and global, a speedy financial recovery after what appears to be another slow winter. If you can, bundle up this winter and go support the breweries through their toughest time of year, and please be kind to the staff. Think globally, drink locally.

Cheers!

— Luke

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