Area brewery says steel, aluminum tariff could impact them

News South Brewing Nut Brown Ale. (Source: Audrey Biesk)
News South Brewing Nut Brown Ale. (Source: Audrey Biesk)

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - President Donald Trump is moving forward with a new tariff on steel and aluminum imports.

The president signed the proclamations Thursday and the tariff will go into effect in less than 15 days. Trump's idea is to punish countries like China, which have flooded the global market with less expensive materials, and boost U.S. manufacturers.

"I am defending America's national security by placing tariffs on foreign imports of steel and aluminum," the president said in the White House.

Independent craft breweries could be impacted by the tariff, as their production is made up entirely of aluminum and steel.

"There are other reasons why beer prices could go up, but this is just another one to add to that list, that simply everything for us to make the beer is going to cost more and to maintain what we are doing here could be a change in prices on the shelves," said David Epstein, owner of Myrtle Beach's New South Brewery.

New South Brewery buys around 5,000 kegs per year, as well as 100,000 cans and lids in bulk twice per year from Ball Manufacturing.

"Any tank you see in a brewery is going to be stainless steel," Epstein said. "We buy more and more kegs every year to keep up with demand, so this is something that could be an immediate issue going forward."

Epstein said New South is proud to be Myrtle Beach's hometown craft brewer for the past 20 years. Their beers are in bars up and down the Grand Strand and lower half of South Carolina. The white and nut brown ales are the two beers canned.

"We went the way of the cans because we like the way the beer holds up in the can better than the bottle," Epstein said. "A lot of small brewers go the way of the can more than the bottle because of that."

The Brewers Association released a letter one week before Trump signed the proclamations, expressing their concern. They said although 98 percent of can sheet aluminum is produced in the U.S., the tariffs are still expected to raise the cost of ingredients to make the product.

"When there is any large price increase, we will get a letter saying you've got about a month before the price increase occurs," Epstein said. "We have not gotten those letters yet and that's when the concern level will go up."

The tariff could also impact his employees' wages. To that end, Epstein said the brewery is in wait-and-see mode.

"It could potentially affect wages, and we're hoping it doesn't get too out of control or out of whack," he said. "It could be across the board; we'll see."

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