Study shows climate change could affect beer consumption, prices

Business & Consumer
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A new study published in the journal “Nature Plants” shows climate change could double the price of beer in the coming decades.

A team of researchers projected heat and drought trends from 2010 to 2099. They found the production of barley, beer’s main ingredient, could be hard by a changing climate. 

“Drought, hail, too much rain, all these things impact the growers, and eventually it’s going to impact us,” said Benjamin Pierson, who is the owner and brewmaster at Swamp Rabbit Brewery in Travelers Rest. 

Pierson said the brewery buys raw materials from across the globe, from Germany to the Pacific Northwest, so if one growing region is hit by a bad crop, they can go elsewhere. 

“It’s hard to imagine that we couldn’t get raw materials from one area or the other, should the other have a climatic event,” he said.

Modeling shows barley yield dropping from three to 17 percent over the coming decades. Under the most extreme circumstances, beer consumption could drop by as much as 16 percent, and on average, beer prices would double, according to the study. 

Researchers said barley production declines sharply when the weather is extremely dry or hot. 

“If we should have a drought in Europe or a drought in the Midwest, it’s going to hit home quick,” Pierson said. 

Tom Davis, who manages Thomas Creek Brewery in Greenville, said he hopes the farming community will evolve as the climate does, perhaps figuring out how to produce more per acre. 

“Immediately, I’m not extraordinarily concerned,” Davis said. “I believe that the…farming community is going to be able to adapt to this.”

He said he thinks that a decrease in supply and an increase in price would hit the consumer hardest, but he said he hopes the study will prompt action. 

“We’re hoping that if these studies are taken seriously, there will be a reaction that will hopefully offset this,” Davis said.

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