Barley in Drought = Beer in Doubt

Jul 13, 2021

Raise a glass and propose a toast to Western barley farmers… because the future of your affordable, refreshing pint may be a bit shaky.

The rundown: With record heat waves and extremely dry conditions hammering the Northern Plains and Western U.S., 80% of the country’s barley crop, the grain used in brewing most beers, is in drought.

Barley condition by the numbers:

  • 1% of Washington’s crop rated good to excellent.
  • 14% of North Dakota’s crop rated good to excellent.
  • 39% of the total U.S. crop rated poor to very poor.

With 2021 now registering the worst barley conditions on record, the poor yield is expected to create supply issues with brewers and raise prices for consumers.

Just getting started: Experts say these problems won’t be short-lived, noting that climate change will have long-lasting effects on the brewing industry. And that scary notion has some brewers vowing to go green… even before St. Patrick’s Day.

Heineken says they will go carbon-neutral by 2030 and ask the same of their supply chain by 2040. Carlsberg (a behemoth Denmark beer company) is investing in seagrass meadow carbon sinks along the UK’s coastline.

Oh, and this: If you’re wondering what climate-change-in-a-can might taste like, the Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing Company’s “Torched Earth Ale” is a carbon-neutral beer made with ingredients like dandelions and smoke-tainted water (gag).

It’s designed to not taste great and, according to the company, uses “the kind of ingredients that would be available in a climate-ravaged future.”

We’ll take their word for it.