Venezuela is running out: of milk, bottled water, and now, beer. According to Cerveceria Polar, which distributes 80% of Venezuela’s beer, a lack of barley, hops, and other essential ingredients is forcing the distributor to shut down some of its breweries.
Another, less reported reason for the shutdown is that brewery workers are on strike, and demanding higher wages. Last week, members of the Sintraterricentro union working at two different bottling plants that belong to the Polar brewery refused to work. Though the union is relatively small, members hold key positions at the plant, meaning that production all but stopped.
Unsurprisingly, the shut down is causing great angst in a country that’s already struggling to maintain its resources, and Venezuelans are pretty dismayed by the shortage.
“People are more freaked out about losing beer than water,” Yefferson Ramirez, who works at a Venezuelan liquor store, told The Guardian. “It shows how distorted our priorities have become here.”
Imported and artisanal beers are still readily available, but they come with a significantly higher price tag than Polar. Heineken, for instance, can cost five times as much as the country’s most popular beer. The fact that Venezuela is in the midst of a heat wave only makes things worse.
Polar has said that it is needs government approval in order to import the raw materials needed to increase beer production. Until now, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro hasn’t yet commented on the issue.