Across many agricultural regions of the world, a staple part of many people’s Superbowl nights and college outings is being impacted: hops. Hops are an aromatic plant used in the production of beer. The alpha acids in the resin portion of hops give beer its signature bitter taste and helps in retaining its flavor and freshness over time. Without it, there are very few alternatives to achieving the same taste.
Hops need a specific climate to grow, where they receive long hours of sunlight while still in a cold climate that allows the beer-essential parts of the plant to flower. This specific criteria gives the plant few options to grow, one of which being Northern Europe.
Northern European farmers have observed a 4 to 8% decrease in their hops yield as a result of warming climates, as the hops are ripen
ing and decaying earlier than they should. This decrease in yield resulting in a 20-30% decrease of alpha acids, an impact on both the flavor and profits.
In an attempt to recover, scientists are trying to simulate the required humidity. However, this requires farmers to clear more land and use more water to freshly restart their crops under supposedly healthier conditions. This deforestation is exacerbating existing conditions. Another alternative is to develop modified plants, although this is far more expensive for the consumer. GMO hops would also have an entirely different flavor profile compared to traditional beer.
Due to energy issues during the pandemic, the price of beer has already increased by 13% and is predicted to continue increasing, impacting millions. There is huge beer consumption across the world with Germany being a leading exporter, especially for Oktoberfest celebrations. The Czech also have high trade participation with beer and even have regulations regarding how pure a beer should be.
While one may think this only impacts a specific sector of the food industry, such environmental conditions are expected to impact other key grains such as barley. Climate legislation is currently looking to find solutions to ensure that other food groups do not experience the same fate, as this could make the world’s hunger situation worse.