BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) – In a recent study in the journal Nature Communications found the changing global climate may be affecting the flavor and cost of American beer.
According to the study, a warmer and drier climate is expected to lower the yield of hops. These are the aromatic flowers of the Humulus Iupulus plant giving beer its signature bitter flavor. The alpha acid content of hops is expected to drop as crops begin to ripen earlier.
“These climate variations may cause changes in the essential oils of particular varieties of hops,” said Herbert Bruce, assistant professor of practice for undergraduate education in Virginia Tech’s Department of Food Science and Technology and co-creator of the university’s official Fightin’ Hokies beers. “It’s important to remember that hops are a key ingredient in all beers, not just IPAs and other very bitter beers. It’s also fairly common for American breweries to use European hops, especially noble or German hops in pilsners and other traditional lagers.”
According to Bruce, these changes might be more widespread in the brewing industry than consumers would think. He believes that bitter beers are not likely going anywhere as breweries can adjust the amount of hops they use to maintain bitterness.
However, if warming temperatures cause decreased crop yields, Bruce believes that price will likely be another factor affected.
“In the U.S. most hops are grown in the northwest. If the study is correct and drier climates reduce hop yield there, it will likely cause prices to go up. This could have a disproportionate impact on smaller craft breweries, as they tend to use only one to three types of hops in their beer,” Bruce said. “Hops are only about four percent of the cost of a bottle of beer, so the price jump isn’t expected to be large initially. However, it’s really difficult to predict what other factors might come into play as the climate affects other areas of the economy.”
For more information or to see the original study, visit https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-023-41474-5.