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“We’ve heard there are people out there that will drive around just to look for kegs,” he said.

Molson Coors Brewing Co. is studying its thefts and working with distributors to keep better track of kegs, said Al Timothy, vice president for government affairs. The Denver brewer saw its keg losses double from 2005 to last year. The company has about 800,000 kegs in circulation at any time and did not want to say how many kegs it expects to lose this year.

“The bottom line is it’s a big problem,” Mr. Timothy said.

Metal prices are high across the world now, partially because of increased demand caused by a spike in construction in growing economies, said Chuck Carr, spokesman for the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc., a trade group whose members run about 3,000 facilities in the United States.

The price scrap yards pay for stainless steel has steadily grown for a year, peaking at about $1.50 to $1.70 a pound last month, said Marty Forman, president of Forman Metal Co. in Milwaukee. But that has dropped to about 50 to 70 cents a pound recently.