Support Our Work

There’s Trouble Brewing For Beer in a Warming World

By Climate Central

Climate change affects three of beer’s core ingredients: hops, water, and barley.

Hops are affected by heat and drought, and with 99 percent of U.S. hops grown in the Washington, Oregon, and Idaho (with over 70 percent grown in Washington alone), the drier climate developing in the West will impact production. Water available for irrigating the hops largely comes from annual melting of winter snowpack from the mountains. A warming world means more rain versus snow in the winter, meaning irrigation may depend more on ground water, which has a higher mineral content and affects the beer’s taste. Barley, the most common grain used in fermentation, is primarily produced in the Upper Midwest and Northern Rockies, and like many cereal crops, it is particularly susceptible to heatwaves and droughts. U.S. farmers are planting less of it to reduce their financial risk. Last year, Montana farmers planted 23 percent less barley for the beer market than in 2016, meaning the final cost of beer at the pub or market may be going up.

Small breweries are economic drivers in statewide economies, and climate change affects the beer they brew. Here’s where it counts the most.