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Climate change could make beer taste worse and cost more, scientists warn

Price of beer has already increased 13% since the pandemic

Jabed Ahmed
Thursday 12 October 2023 10:45 BST
The price of beer has soared in recent years, with £7 pints not uncommon
The price of beer has soared in recent years, with £7 pints not uncommon (PA Wire)

Climate change could reduce the quality and increase the cost of beer, scientists have warned.

The quantity of European hops, which give beer its distinct and bitter flavour is declining, according to a new study by Cambridge University and the Czech Academy of Sciences. Hops is one of the four main ingredients in the beer-making process, alongside water, malt and yeast.

Researchers found that between 1995 and 2018 there was a drop of nearly 20% in the growth of hops, compared to the previous 23 years.

The crop loss was attributed to drier conditions that have likely resulted from climate change in recent years. Extreme temperatures have also reduced the alpha bitter acids of hops, which affects the drink’s flavour, the study found.

With summers projected to be hotter, longer and drier the impact on producers could become even worse, experts say.

Beer is the third most widely consumed drink worldwide after water and tea - with 8.5 billion pints sold in the UK alone, according to the British Beer and Pub Association.

Consumer demand for beers with distinct, powerful flavours has increased due to the rise in the craft beer industry, driving the use of premium hops.

The warning comes after a 13% increase in the price of beer since the pandemic, due to an increase in energy costs driven by inflation, and the gas crisis following the invasion of Ukraine.

In August, Rishi Sunak also announced new tax rises on alcohol based on a drink’s strength, rather than the previous categories of wine, beer, spirits and ciders.

While the average price of a draught pint has gone down by 11p, brewers now pay 10.1% more tax on bottles and cans of beer, according to The British Beer and Pub Association.

Martin Mozny, co-author of the paper and research scientist at CAS, said: “Failure to adapt will jeopardise the profitability of hop growing in some areas. The consequence will be lower production and a higher price for brewers.”

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