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Metro beer enthusiasts concerned steel, aluminum tariffs could cause beer costs to overflow

NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- You may need a cold one after you read this story.

Economists say there's a good chance the price of beer is going up, and there's an expensive reason for it.

The next time you open a cold can of the good stuff, it could cost a little more. The cost of beer is always a concern at small beer-makers like Cinder Block Brewing in North Kansas City, where owner Bryce Schaffter turned his fascination with home brewing into a successful business six years back.

"It's a local lager we make," Schaffter said Friday while stacking cans on one of the taproom's tables off 18th Avenue. "We have great local support."

Schaffter and the brewers at Cinder Block are proudest of their award-winning Northtown Native lager, a crisp, golden brew that's proving to be popular in the city's Northland communities.

The brewery's owner explained that a rise in beer costs could depend on what consumers prefer in their refrigerator. American steel corporations are now being imposed tariffs on raw components used to make aluminum and steel, including the metal used for beer cans. President Donald Trump said he made this move to help struggling U.S. steel mills, which have languished when competing with overseas steelmakers from China and Russia, among others.

"There's a potential that we would have to increase pricing around our cans ourselves if the price hikes are high enough. Definitely, if they're marginal, we'll just consume those and take less margin on the cans or the products we make," Schaffter said.

Schaffter estimated 30 percent of small U.S. breweries are selling their beers in cans. He explained how consumers like the convenience the cans offer that glass bottles can't present. Schaffter said his customers also like the freshness they get from metal since glass can't protect the beer from daylight, which robs beer of its purity.

"We have concerns about whether or not it will increase the price, and also, will it create any scarcity, as far as actually getting the aluminum in so these manufacturers can manufacture it. It's a combination of both imported aluminum and U.S. aluminum that go to make these cans," Schaffter said.

As for beer enthusiasts, opinions appear to be split, much the way some beer drinkers prefer light beer rather than dark brews.

"I think most people who have a favorite beer brand tend to stick to it, and they're willing to have a little give and take in the pricing. If its a large amount, they may look at changing to something else," said Tifney Havermehl, a beer enthusiast from Independence.

"This is a positive thing," said Austin G. Rodgers, a beer lover from North Kansas City. "It's letting you go away from a California brewery into a Kansas City brewery. When the aluminum comes up, it's making the beer come down and it makes this more competitive. It's the one time I'll back (President Trump)."

Consumer prices haven't shifted yet, but Schaffter is one of two local brewers who told FOX4 it could come soon. Schaffter suggested the public should do what he does: have a cold one and don't worry about it.

Schaffter said he's also concerned about the cost of stainless steel since most of his brewing equipment is made of that material. Also, Schaffter said smaller breweries like his don't have long-term agreements with can factories, a luxury the beer giants can afford.