Climate Change and Beer: Exploring the Uncertain Future of Hops
Beer is one of the most widely consumed beverages globally. Brewers make beer using four key ingredients: water, barley, yeast, and hops.
Beer hops play a crucial role in imparting aroma and flavor to beer. As consumer preferences for beer aromas and flavors evolve, the demand for high-quality hops is increasing.
However, a recent study has shown that the climate crisis is impacting the yield and aroma of beer hops, potentially modifying the taste and aroma of some of our beloved beers.
The climate crisis is making it harder to grow hops globally
Hops require long days of sunlight during their growing season. They then require a couple of months of colder temperatures and shorter days to flower and produce the part of the plants used in beer brewing.
That's why farmers cultivate them in relatively small regions with higher latitudes, like in central Europe and the Pacific Northwest in the U.S. A study published in Nature Communications in October 2023 has found that climate crisis will affect the hop-producing regions in Europe with heat waves or drought extremes.
The study noted a decline in the quality and quantity of hops produced in regions like Germany, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia.
It predicts that by 2050, hop yields could decline by as much as 18%, and their alpha acid content, which makes beer bitter, could decrease by up to 31%.
This is concerning as the demand for high-quality hops to make IPAs and hoppy lagers is growing.
How the climate crisis is affecting U.S. hops
The situation in the U.S. could be very similar, although the study focused on Europe. Hop farmers grow hops in Yakima Valley in the Pacific Northwest, which provides the right conditions for the crop. However, with record-shattering heatwaves and rising global temperatures, the right conditions may not persist for long.
This demonstrates the impact of the climate crisis on things that are important to us. Who could have predicted that the climate crisis would pose a threat to beer? As hop-growers face these challenges, it is uncertain how the changing quality and quantity of beer hops will affect the taste of our beloved beer, or if it will result in increased costs, or maybe even both.