Trump's metal tariffs could hit NC's craft beer makers hard

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — On Thursday, President Donald Trump is expected to officially lay out his plan to impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports. With more than 200 craft breweries in the state, the billion dollar North Carolina beer industry could end up taking a hit.

“Breweries are surrounded by steel, aluminum and beer,” said Les Stewart, the head brewer at Trophy Brewing Company in Raleigh.

Last week, Trump first announced plans for the tariffs, saying they would preserve national security concerns and serve a shot in the arm to the nation’s own steel industry.

“The President was quite clear: We can’t have a country that can defend itself and prosper without an aluminum and steel industry,” said White House adviser Peter Navarro told CNN.

Trophy Brewing Company used American made aluminum can sheet for its beer cans, but Stewart is afraid the tariff would also drive up prices domestically. He says it costs anywhere from 25 to 40 cents to make one can of beer. Trophy fills 7,000 in one day.

“Now you’re talking about one cent on top of that? You’re talking about a significant amount of money. That’s the difference in being able to potentially have on an additional part time employee,” Stewart says.

Stewart says Trophy prefers cans to bottles because they are less expensive to ship, and ensure the quality.

The Brewers Association represents 6,000 small craft breweries across the country. The associations says cans are the preferred packaging for newer and smaller breweries, saying they would “be the ones most directly impacted by a price increase.”

Trophy is a small to mid-size brewery, employing more than 100 people between office staff, restaurants, and brewery.

Stewart says the company is always keeping an eye out for new aluminum that is cost competitive, and on Wednesday decided to go with a different lid provider.

“We’re looking for quality. We’re looking for best price. Find the combination that works for us,” Stewart said.

Cans aren’t the only concerns. Trophy uses German stainless steal for its kegs and the steel tanks necessary for fermentation.

With plans for growth in Trophy’s future, Stewart says the company will need to buy another steel tank. He worries what an additional 25 percent tariff would do to his bottom line.

“That’s a lot more money to have to put into it and to pay out. That’s a cost we’d either have to figure out how to cut and eat, or pass onto our consumer,” said Stewart.

In a statement, the association says it “strongly opposes the imposition of tariffs” adding that “aluminum can sheet used to make beer cans does not pose a national security threat.”

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