Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Ecstasy and The Agony

Or the Good News and the Bad News. Or the Yin and the Yang. Or Comedy and Tragedy. Any of those diametrically opposed references will work.

 Two recent stories in a professional magazine I subscribe to called Craft Brewing Business should bring at once a smile and a frown to Beer Nuts, and especially to small brewers, who, according to one article, are most likely to be impacted.

First, the good news. Some colleges are looking to put brewpubs on campus as part of an educational initiative based on beer and the science/art of brewing. That news will probably freak out the modern day temperance movement, but from this perspective, it's perfectly rational as well as educational. An old friend once told me, "You can enjoy beer--even love it, but you can't get intimate with it until you brew it."

And that's what the above programs are attempting to do for their students. A more intimate relationship with beer will very likely lead to less--not more-- binge drinking, which is an absolutely asinine way to "enjoy" beer. In fact, the better beer one drinks, the more he learns to savor and appreciate what it is that makes beer something far more than a liquid to load into a funnel on your head. So good for those schools who are promoting the art of brewing and the appreciation of good beer.

Now the bad news. As I wrote a last week, the rise in hops prices could seriously impact those brewers who focus on hop-forward beers, like IPA's and DIPA's.

Seems my piece was a bellwether, if what this article says is true, and I believe it is. I don't know that terms like "Doomsday Scenario" apply right now, but prices are definitely going up for one simple reason: supply and demand laws are pretty much immutable. Be warned that the link in the story that goes to the Wall Street journal article will only benefit those who have a subscription to the WSJ, but the point is made. Here is a blurb from that WSJ piece, which calls hops a "grain":

"The popularity of hopped-up beers has led to a serious hops shortage in the U.S. That shortage drove the average price for all hops to $3.59 a pound in 2013, up from $1.88 in 2004, according to the nonprofit Hop Growers of America. the Washington-based merchant 47 Hops warned this spring that choicer hops, including Cascade 'will likely be over $10 a pound' by the end of 2014.
This spells trouble for smaller craft brewers, who produce fewer than 15,000 barrels annually. The increasing cost of hops could put them out of business, ironically, amid steady growth for the industry."

The main article itself is sufficiently stocked with information that drives the point home.

Thus, college students who learn to brew might not be able to ply their trade if they are hell-bent on making hoppy beers.

But there may be a bright side--and an opportunity.

Might all those college students who can't find jobs want to consider starting up hop farms? Sure, it's work. But it's work.

And, as you'll see in the next issue of NJ Brew Magazine, there's always mead.

Cheers! The PubScout

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