Oct. 23—A national carbon dioxide shortage had a local restaurant feeling flat Saturday.
The Great Lost Bear on Forest Avenue was temporarily unable to serve from any of its 60 taps, a big problem for the craft beer destination. A temporary fix got 25 taps back online by the afternoon, and one of the owners said he hoped to be pouring all beers again early next week.
"I got somebody here at the bar right now who came up from New Orleans to try some Maine beers, and they're drinking Coors Light in a bottle," Mike Dickson said.
Dickson was eventually able to get that customer samples of favorites from Maine Beer Co. and Bissell Brothers, but his struggle on Saturday was linked to a greater shortage of CO2 and speaks to the fears that have been mounting at breweries and restaurants for months.
The shortage of CO2 began in 2020 near the start of the pandemic because of a decrease in supply and has worsened in recent months because of distribution problems. CO2 is a byproduct of other processes, like the production of ethanol or ammonia. It is also integral to the brewing process, and restaurants like The Great Lost Bear use it to move beer from kegs to taps.
"All the major companies are in a tight spot right now for CO2," Will Gentry, a district manager at Maine-based chemical company Maine Oxy, told the Press Herald in August. "CO2 issues aren't going to go away in the near future."
Dickson said he hasn't heard directly from any local breweries or other businesses about problems with their CO2 supply. But The Great Lost Bear usually goes through its tank once a month, and he placed his order as usual when it was about one-third full. That was 10 days ago. He said his supplier, Florida-based NuCO2, has not been able to tell him when the delivery would arrive or account for the delay. A call to the company Saturday went unanswered.
The Great Lost Bear employs a special system that uses different combinations of nitrogen and CO2, so Dickson spent hours Saturday trying to find a workaround to use their backup tank of CO2 only. It's not a perfect solution, he said, but it got nearly half of the taps running again and will hold them over until they can switch their supplier next week.
Customers, at least, have been generally understanding of yet another supply-chain issue.
"It's hard to explain to people, but a lot of people accept it in this world that we live in," Dickson said.