Researchers in Oregon have uncovered the detrimental impact of heat and drought on hops, a vital ingredient in craft beer. John Henning, a USDA hop geneticist, described the results as “an eye-opener.” The study discovered that extreme temperatures and water deprivation significantly reduced the levels of alpha acid in hops, leading to less flavorful beer.
Rise in costs: Craft beer prices set to soar as hops supply dries up
The cost of hops and the resulting beer prices are expected to rise as brewers contend with the scarcity of alpha acid extract. Henning stated, “That’s basic supply and demand.” Although hops growers can mitigate the effects of dry conditions with increased water usage, high temperatures pose a far greater challenge. Finding hop strains that can adapt to rising temperatures remains an ongoing struggle for researchers.
Heatwave havoc: Rising temperatures leave craft Beer’s taste on the rocks
Climate change poses a significant threat to hops and barley across the globe. Farmers may face reduced yields per acre, leading to diminished quality and increased beer prices. Growing hops is already a challenging task, as they require specific amounts of sunlight to initiate the flowering stage.
Wildfire smoke infuses unsavory taste into key ingredients of craft beer
Another unique challenge facing the beer industry is the rising threat of forest fires. Wildfire smoke has a drying effect on hop and barley fields, potentially infusing these key ingredients with an undesirable taste. Tom Shellhammer, a professor at Oregon State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences, confirmed the persistent issue of wildfire smoke affecting beer production year after year.
Canadian forest fires highlight potential barley supply crisis
Furthermore, U.S. brewers heavily rely on ingredients from Canada. Patrick Hayes, a professor at Oregon State University, warned that the forest fires plaguing Canadian territories may foreshadow a dire future for the barley supply chain.
Europe has already experienced the devastating impact of drought on hops. In 2022, German hop yields decreased by more than 20% compared to typical years. Even domestic growers faced hardships, as wildfires in Oregon and Washington tainted hops with a smoky flavor, disappointing beer drinkers.
Researchers and for-profit companies worldwide are striving to breed barley and hops resilient to climate extremes. However, these efforts come with their own challenges. While innovative solutions like Sattler’s discovery of a heat-tolerant hop variety provide glimmers of hope, the complexity of climate change demands a comprehensive and diverse approach to secure the future of the craft beer industry.