Climate crisis will make Europe's beer cost more and taste worse
Climate breakdown is already changing the taste and quality of beer, scientists have warned. The quantity and quality of hops, a key ingredient in most beers, is being affected by global heating, according to a study. As a result, beer may become more expensive and manufacturers will have to adapt their brewing methods.
Researchers forecast that hop yields in European growing regions will fall by 4-18% by 2050 if farmers do not adapt to hotter and drier weather, while the content of alpha acids in the hops, which gives beers their distinctive taste and smell, will fall by 20-31%.
"Beer drinkers will definitely see the climate change, either in the price tag or the quality," said Miroslav Trnka, a scientist at the Global Change Research Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences and co-author of the study, published in the journal Nature Communications. "That seems to be inevitable from our data."
Beer, the third-most popular drink in the world after water and tea, is made by fermenting malted grains like barley with yeast. It is usually flavored with aromatic hops grown mostly in the middle latitudes that are sensitive to changes in light, heat and water.
In recent years, demand for high-quality hops has been pushed up by a boom in craft beers with stronger flavors. But emissions of planet-heating gases are putting the plant at risk, the study found.
The researchers compared the average annual yield of aroma hops during the periods 1971-1994 and 1995-2018 and found "a significant production decrease" of 0.13-0.27 tons per hectare.
Celje, in Slovenia, had the greatest fall in average annual hop yield, at 19.4%. In Germany, the second-biggest hop producer in the world, average hop yields have fallen 19.1% in Spalt, 13.7% in Hallertau and 9.5% in Tettnang, the study found.
Beer-brewing in central Europe dates back thousands of years and is a cornerstone of the culture. The study found the alpha acid content of hops, which gives beer its distinct aroma, had fallen in all regions.
Andreas Auernhammer, a hop farmer in Spalt in southern Germany, said the total rainfall in his fields had changed little but now "the rain does not come at the right time".