Climate change bad news for brews

Higher prices, scarcity of ingredients already impacting producers

A major Colorado craft brewer says its business already is experiencing the impacts of climate change.

Fort Collins’ New Belgium Brewery has been creating specialty brews since 1991, and sustainability director Jenn Orgolini said anyone who enjoys the company’s product should be concerned about the climate.

“This is not a problem that’s going to happen someday, and this is not a problem that’s just going to impact some industries,” she said. “If you drink beer now, the issue of climate change is impacting you right now.”

Some of those impacts include higher prices for raw materials or scarcer products such as specialty hops.

Orgolini says more beer is produced in Colorado – from craft brewers to major players such as Coors and Anheuser Busch – than in any other state.

Her message comes as scientists, too, are attempting to ring alarm bells about the climate.

Climate extremes are getting more common, a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says, and the planet is getting warmer.

More than 200 scientists from 62 countries worked on the report. The project is seeking ways to manage and reduce disaster risk because of a changing global environment.

In Colorado, beer is among the chief products that stand to be impacted.

The Carnegie Institution for Science’s Chris Field, co-chairman of one of the IPCC working groups that developed the report, says a changing climate translates into more extreme weather, from more tornadoes and stronger winter storms to more devastating droughts and heat waves.

“What is currently a heat wave that occurs only one year in 20, by the end of the century might occur every one to two years,” he said.

Orgolini is worried the trend could continue. This year, she said, weather conditions in the Pacific Northwest meant that hops New Belgium normally uses weren’t available.

“Craft brewers – the emphasis there is on craft. We make something, and it’s a deeply agricultural product. So we are tied to the seasons, the productivity of the land and, of course, water, which is so important here in Colorado,” Orgolini said.

Brewers aren’t the only ones concerned, she said. The variability that characterizes climate change could affect all sorts of agricultural products, including other beverages such as coffee and wine.

Comments » Read and share your thoughts on this story