A global shortage of hops, combined with a run-up in barley prices, is sending a chill through Arizona's craft-beer industry.
The hops shortage threatens to boost prices, cut into profits and close down brewpubs. It could change the taste and consistency of treasured local ales.
In Bisbee, "hop heads" already are weaning themselves from Electric Dave's India Pale Ale. Dave Harvan closed his 7-year-old Electric Brewing Co. in November, citing the scarcity and high cost of ingredients.
Since this is from an Arizona paper, I'm not familiar with Electric Dave's India Pale Ale, though I would like to be familiar with it. Unfortunately, some people, you know the ones in Iowa, would like to have their crop subsidized and by gosh, unbelievable as it may seem, politicians go along with it to get votes. It doesn't have anything to do with what's good for the country, earth or whatever, it has to do with the folks who help elect a President. And this buffoonery causes real problems...like not enough hops for some microbrewed India Pale Ale.
Papazian attributed the barley prices to ethanol subsidies that have raised the price of corn, the main ingredient in the alternative fuel. As a result, farmers have switched to barley for livestock feed, which has pushed up prices.
The hops situation is more complex. Years of overproduction and low prices led farmers to replace hops fields with more profitable crops. Add to that corn subsidies that have caused farmers to replace hops fields with corn, a drought in Australia that affected yields and heavy rains in Europe that ruined much of this year's crop.
I've read about this hop shortage in other places as well, but no one has done a good enough job placing blame on those who deserve it; pandering politicians, like the ones who won Iowa last night. I may have to run from Chuck Norris' fist after this post is published (he supports Huckabee, causing a split in the Bull E. Vard - Chuck Norris camp).
While a shortage of hops may seem trivial to some, a shortage of cheap grains and vegetables can be devastating to a poor family. The Bull E. Vard family will do fine in the spring and summer with a shortage of seasonal microbrew IPA's, but, families having to pay an increased 25% on their monthly food bill might not find it very trivial. One of my favorite blogs, Coyote Blog, has a link rich post on this subject, check it out. I'm going to go crack open a Great Divide IPA.