Longtime readers in this space might recall when we profiled “Torched Earth” ale, an offering from the famous Colorado brewers New Belgium. They gave drinkers a taste of a future in which we didn’t avert climate change – filling the beer with flavours of smoke (from wildfires, natch) and shelf-stable hops extract (hops needing reliable watering). Hoping to serve this brew as a warning bell, it was released for Earth Day 2021.
And now, two years later, with the warning gone unheeded, actual beer is now exhibiting some of the symptoms New Belgium gave us a preview of. The venerable Guardian reports that due to higher global temperatures – surprise surprise – hops production is down.
“In recent years, demand for high-quality hops has been pushed up by a boom in craft beers with stronger flavours. But emissions of planet-heating gases are putting the plant at risk, the study found.
The researchers compared the average annual yield of aroma hops during the periods 1971 – 1994 and 1995 – 2018 and found “a significant production decrease” of 0.13 – 0.27 tons per hectare. Celje, in Slovenia, had the greatest fall in average annual hop yield, at 19.4%. […]
The researchers modelled the effect of future warming on crops using an emissions scenario similar to current policies. By 2050, they found, hop yields will fall 4.1 – 18.4% compared with the average from 1989 – 2018 if no measures are taken to adapt. The projected decline will be driven mainly by hotter weather and more frequent and severe droughts.”
The researchers cited above (from the Global Change Research Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences) state that if these trends continue, beer producers will have to increasingly invest in pricey interventions to keep their products flowing. This is not just expensive for individual producers and the industry, but can lead to even more harmful emissions as precious hops get shuffled around the planet! And this is not a regional problem: While a world without beer might seem trivial to some, it represents an increase in the temperature of the water that all of us frogs are in. If not now, when will we jump out?