Idaho Brewers Weigh In On Trump Administration's Latest Trade Tariffs

May 31, 2018

New duties are being imposed on imported aluminum and steel from the European Union and Mexico. Some Idaho brewers are waiting to see how the changes in trade will impact the price of cans.
Credit Scuddr / Flickr

The Trump Administration announced it’s allowing stiff tariffs to go into effect on steel and aluminum from Mexico and the European Union. With Idaho’s growing beer scene, the move is getting mixed responses from brewers.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced exemptions for the metals were coming to an end almost immediately. Under the new schedule of tariffs, imposed duties will be 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum from the E.U. and Mexico.

The founder of Payette Brewing, Michael Francis, says his company puts out more than 100,000 cases of canned beer each year. For the moment, he’s insulated from any fluctuations in the price of aluminum.

“Manufacturers usually set it once a year based on any changes in aluminum pricing,” Francis says. “So, as far as I know, our prices now through the end of the year are set.”

Francis says he believes most of the aluminum used for beer cans comes from the U.S. Still, he expresses some uncertainty.

“With tariffs, who knows?” says Francis. “That means the whole aluminum pricing could go up everywhere so not just on imports. We’re really in a wait-and-see mode.”

Eastern Idaho’s Grand Teton Brewing exclusively sells its suds in glass bottles. Operation manager Chris Furbacher says they spend a lot on packaging.

“It ain’t cheap, I can tell ya that,” Furbacher jokes.

He says Grand Teton is interested in making the switch to cans, even with new tariffs and the prospect of rising aluminum costs.

“Cans are definitely cheaper than bottles in the long run,” says Furbacher.

The European Union is expected to impose retaliatory tariffs in response to those put in place by the U.S. 

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