The Impending Loss of Beer from the Human Diet

Lager (beer) is one of the oldest drinks known to mankind, as it was brewed in the ancient Near East thousands of years before our era.

And in the Middle Ages, the industry of its production was developed in the monasteries of Western and Central Europe, and by the 21st century it has turned into a huge industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars. However, its fate, like that of the drink itself, is threatened by climate change, as water resources are depleted and the yield of barley, the main vegetable ingredient, is reduced due to rising temperatures and drought.

Meanwhile, the industry is trying to draw attention to the problem and eliminate the threat to its resources, although it is too early to talk about serious successes.

Approximately 200 billion liters of beer are consumed annually by mankind, making it the most popular alcoholic beverage in terms of quantity consumed. In the next five years, the market size, according to some forecasts, may approach $1 trillion.

However, beer production, like many other sectors of the economy, is currently facing risks associated with climate change, beer production has already become a serious challenge for food security in general, given that rising temperatures, frequent floods and droughts, and the activation of insect pests against the backdrop of warming, all this is hitting agriculture. Water resources have become scarcer, and each degree of increase in average temperature reduces the yield of the main agricultural crops of mankind, including wheat, rice, corn and soybeans, by about 3-7.4%.

Also at risk are hops, which cannot withstand extreme heat, and malt, which is usually derived from barley. Barley changes its properties (such as the percentage of protein) even with a slight increase in temperature, which, among other things, affects its taste.

But the main problem is the size of the crop. In Europe, which supplies 60% of the world’s barley supply, production fell 12% between 1964 and 2015 due to weather. At the same time, in lean years, the usual ratio of the distribution of harvested volumes changes: the share of cereal use in brewing decreases due to an increase in the share of its use as a fodder crop. Typically, about 17% of the harvest is spent on beer, but in the event of severe weather, it can be reduced to 13%, according to scientists from the US, UK, Mexico and China in 2017.

This trend is expected to continue in the future. Feeding livestock in difficult years is more important than beer production. Based on historical data and various climate models, scientists say that in particularly bad weather years, beer consumption should drop by 18 percent and average prices should double.

In the future, as the climate crisis worsens and extreme weather events become more frequent, the ingredients needed to brew beer may not be available at all. To clarify this thesis and draw attention to the problem, the American company New Belgium Brewing brewed a beer in 2021, which they called Torched Earth Ale. “.

It was used instead of drought-tolerant barley millet and buckwheat, and the smoky smell reminded the consumer of forest fires, while the bitter taste was provided by chicory, known for its ability to grow anywhere. Each sip was supposed to remind the consumer that if urgent measures are not taken to solve the climate problem, the familiar taste of their favorite drink will become a thing of the past.

Source: Komsomolskaya Pravda.