Monday, February 8, 2010
Beer, the latest victim of Global Warming
Do you have a beer fridge? If you do,congratulation, you are contributing to the destruction of your favorite brew. A government commissioned study in Canada recently found that the use of extra household "beer" fridges, which typically use gas guzzling and coal-fired electricity are contributing to global warming, and increase in beer prices and a decrease in beer quality. 
Global warming is the average increase of temperature of earth’s atmosphere. It has been caused by the continuous burning of fossil fuels, as well as deforestation, leading to an increased concentration of “greenhouse gases” in the atmosphere, these gases prevent heat from escaping into space. NASA estimates that the average surface temperature of the earth has increased by 1.2-1.4 ºF in the last 100 years. If greenhouse gases continue to increase, as many climate models predict, the Earth’s surface will continue to increase, wreaking havoc on the climate. 
Global warming has always been an issue, with people arguing both for and against it. Regardless, there are many victims to the increased surface temperature of the Earth over the last two decades. Glaciers around the world are disappearing/melting, an increased number of hurricanes, decreased bamboo growth, as well as droughts and floods throughout the world. While all those effects really stink, most people really don’t care...but a new victim has emerged, that I think will start to get people’s attention…the effect of global warming on the world’s beer production and quality.
Climatologists at the Czech Hydrometeorlogical Institute in the Czech Republic say the quality of Saaz hops, which are the main ingredient of the best pilsner beers, has seen a drastic decrease in production and quality. The best of these Saaz hops contain 5% alpha acid, which is responsible for producing the bitter taste of pilsners, the concentration of alpha acid has decreased by 0.06% a year since 1954…this is only the beginning though, climate models predict that there will be bigger decreases in alpha acid concentration and hop yields, as air temperature continues to rise. [3,4]
These results however are not an isolated problem, many other regions in Europe (Germany, Slovenia) as well as Australia and New Zealand have all published similar stories.
Unfortunately, not only is the taste of our most beloved brews at risk, but so are our wallets. An increase in global warming has led to increased prices for various ingredients and higher quality ingredients, which ultimately is leading to an increase in price for consumers.
So, let's be a little more environmentally friendly and the next time that you reach for a cold one, make sure that you savor the sizzle of the hops on your tongue…because if we don't start caring more about the environment, that flavor might won't be around for much longer.
Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, DOI: 10.1016/j.agrformet.2009.02.006