Will Climate Change Make Beer More Expensive Than Wine? What the Ale!

Bartender Kimi Khosrovani at Playground fears global warming. Photo by Greg Nagel

How many times have you heard a scientific study that claims to prove one thing, then another study finds the opposite? When I saw an Oct. 15 article from UC Irvine titled “Global Warming Will Have Us Crying In What’s Left of Our Beer,” I thought it was referring to the Anthill Aramark Pub’s central AC unit. Sadly, it’s not.

The study, conducted by UCI and other institutions, suggests barley—the key ingredient in beer that creates flavor, sugar for yeast and mouthfeel—will yield less over time because of global warming and drought conditions.

Of course, global warming may pose a threat to a multitude of crops throughout the world, not just barley. But luckily, farmers and agricultural scientists have the wherewithal to forecast change and adapt. According to the Brewers Association, there are a number of factors tied to barley crops’ continual migration, mostly cost of land, yield, environmental changes and the value of even more beneficial crops. In 2017, we saw the lowest U.S. barley production on record, not because of temperatures, but rather because a global glut of grain had farmers reaching for more lucrative crops.

The Brewers Association also says that barley production efficiency has grown. The projections outlined in the paper “do not assess the effect of future changes in barley agriculture,” of which there may be many. Over the past 75 years, American barley farmers have averaged a 1.4 percent increase in yield each year.

Malted barley crops are forecast, bought and paid for before they’re planted, so I don’t foresee a major beer shortage any time soon. Get out of here with that “sky is falling” clickbait, UCI, and get more local beers on tap at the Anthill Pub while you’re at it.


Greg Nagel has been writing about beer since 2011, is an avid homebrewer of wine, cider, and beer, is a certified Cicerone Beer Server, level 1 WSET in Wine, a podcaster with the Four Brewers Show, and runs a yearly beer festival called Firkfest happening on June 29th in Anaheim!

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