Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Barley (and Beer) Prices on the Rise: Thanks La Nina!

Is this the dawn of the $12 six-pack?

Posted By on Tue, Aug 23, 2011 at 9:06 PM


A crappy winter and spring may result in beer drinkers shelling out more for their favorite swill.

Because of flooding in Australia and Canada, two of world’s largest barley producers, the price of the coveted crop has increased significantly. European growers also experienced a wet, and thus lackluster, barley season.

So has the cost of barley risen significantly? We turned to Deschutes Brewmaster Larry Sidor for answers.

“Absolutely,” he says.

However, because Deschutes purchases in large quantities, they are able to lock in fair prices for years to come. Smaller brewers may be the ones to feel more of a squeeze.

“It’s affecting us, but not as much as others,” notes Sidor, who has already secured enough barley to last Deschutes through most of 2012.

Here’s where the problem occurs (at least for Canadian farmers): You plant barley in the spring, but not if the ground is still sodden and prone to freezing, as it was this year. You harvest in the fall but if you didn’t plant until, say, early summer, your harvest schedule gets pushed back. Sometimes, it gets pushed dangerously close to the rainy season come autumn.

“Farmers can lose an entire crop in a matter of hours,” says Sidor.

Making matters worse, as more and more cattle are fattened with corn, barley farmers (the proud, the few) have come on hard times.

Luckily (for beer drinkers, NW farmers and for Deschutes), Sidor purchases his hops regionally. Deschutes sources most of their barley from the Pacific Northwest, he says.

The moral: drink up now.

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