7 months ago

Climate Change Brews Trouble for British Beer

The UK is renowned for its rich and diverse beer culture, with a wide range of brews catering to various palates. From the citrusy, floral and fruity aromas that have become a staple in the craft beer scene to more traditional ales and lagers, beer is something that many Britons hold close to their hearts.

However, a recent study has uncovered alarming insights into the potential impact of climate change on the brewing industry, leaving many enthusiasts and industry professionals concerned about the future.

Hop Crops in Crisis

A study published in Nature Communications reveals that climate change is impacting the quality and cost of beer. The primary culprit is dwindling yields for hops, which are essential for giving beer its distinct taste and aroma. Available in a variety of strains, hops are crucial ingredients in the beer styles the UK knows and loves.

The research points towards a climate-induced decline in the quality and quantity of traditional aroma hops across Europe. Hops play a pivotal role in providing beer with unique characteristics, including the citrus, floral, and fruit aromas that have grown in popularity among UK beer enthusiasts.

The report highlights how agricultural droughts, currently projected to reduce hop yields by between 12% and 35% by 2050, have a significant effect. Despite the impact on hop farms in the UK, Slovenia, Portugal, and Spain will struggle the most.

The authors of the study emphasise the need for farmers to adapt to save their hop crops. Experts call for expanding the area allocated to cultivation by 20% to compensate for the expected decline. These measures are crucial to stabilising the international market that delivers hops to British breweries and other beer-loving countries.

Bitter Reality for Hospitality and Brewing

The implications of this climate-induced crisis extend beyond the hop fields and the breweries. Pubs and restaurants that rely on serving top-quality beer may face significantly higher costs as a result of the shortage. The rising prices of hops and the additional costs incurred by breweries could realistically lead to more expensive pints at the bar.

While the brewing industry is resilient and adaptable, as demonstrated during the pandemic, it will need to find innovative solutions to maintain the quality of beer and keep prices and flavouring additives to maintain unique taste profiles.

Beer sommelier Jonas Krall said: “In my humble opinion, seasonality and local ingredients are a good way to start. We could probably find endless ways to start that change, and many, many breweries are already facing and pursuing that change.

Last but not least, I think it's as important as ever that the producers understand what the problems they're facing are. Also, the customers should understand what the product they're consuming is about and why it costs what it costs. I'm curious how we are going to tackle those issues together to keep this wonderful product and all that it's connecting alive.”

So we can secure the future of the UK’s beloved beer culture, industry, farmers, and policymakers must work collaboratively to find sustainable solutions. This approach will protect the quality and affordability of beer and safeguard the traditional product. Beer lovers can only hope that with collective effort, their pints will continue to flow with the same excellence and diversity they have come to expect.

Pouring on the Pressure

These challenges have come about at a time when licenced establishments are already juggling heightened operating costs. More recently, associations representing pubs requested urgent Government intervention regarding energy expenses and contractual agreements.

The British Beer & Pub Association, UKHospitality, and the British Institute of Innkeeping jointly wrote a letter to Amanda Solloway MP, the Minister for Energy Consumers and Affordability, seeking assistance to prevent potential large-scale job layoffs.

Renowned TV chef and pub owner Tom Kerridge voiced the need for support in the hospitality industry. As the proprietor of the first two Michelin-starred pubs, he disclosed a staggering 600% increase in energy bills and an additional £25,000 in insurance costs since the last COVID-19 lockdown. Alongside insurance, escalating rents and mortgage rates have further compounded the challenges faced by hospitality.

Kerridge said: “There’s been absolutely no let-up. There hasn't been any positivity or good news in three or four years. Every day feels like you're walking uphill, on glass, barefoot.”

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Sam White