How climate change may affect the beer you drink on St. Patrick’s Day

Warming temperatures will impact three of the key ingredients in beer: barley, hops and water

Climate change is impacting the key ingredients in beer: barley, hops and water (Copyright 2022 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)

ROANOKE, Va. – St. Patrick’s Day is coming up on Thursday and I’m sure some of you will partake in the unofficial drink of the holiday: beer.

Beer is America’s most popular alcoholic beverage and it means big business in Virginia. As of 2018, the craft brewery industry employed more than 13,000 people in the Commonwealth and had an economic impact of $1.71 billion.

Virginia brewery stats (as of 2018) (Copyright 2022 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)

We’ve spent a lot of time writing articles for our website and talking on-air about the impacts of climate change. One impact warming temperatures could have? Making it harder to produce the ingredients needed to make beer.

The most important ingredient in beer is water, as it makes up 90-95% of every pint, can and keg. Climate change is contributing to nationwide changes in the quality and quantity of fresh water.

Barley is the most common grain used in beer production, but it is highly sensitive to extreme heat and drought. Those are two phenomena we’re seeing more of in our warming climate.

Finally, hops give beer its distinct flavors, bitterness and aromas. The production of hops can be affected by snowpack and extreme heat in the localized areas they come from—mainly Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

Solutions to the ingredient problem include protecting freshwater supplies and adapting barley and hops to drought and pests.

Climate change & beer brewing solutions (Copyright 2022 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)

So as you’re enjoying a green beer this St. Patrick’s Day, think about how that same beer could become more scarce in the future due to our warming climate.

Big hat tip to Climate Central for the information in this article.


About the Author:

Justin McKee presents the weather forecast on 10 News Saturday and Sunday mornings from 6 to 8 a.m. He also fills in for other meteorologists during the week.