Sunday 13 September 2009

Climate Change

It's busy at the pub. Good. But it does mean I have less time to blog. Bad. My little brother sent me a New Scientist article by email, because he thought I might be interested. He was of course right.

It's about hops loosing alpha acids due to climate change. I worry about climate change. I also worry sometimes that we worry too much about climate change. Bad beer might just be a worthy reason to worry.

My brother did seem to think that the degradation of the quality of Saaz hops might in someway account for my reluctance to appreciate lager - I'm not so sure on that one, but it's an interesting thought.


Velky Al said...


To truly appreciate lager, may I suggest a weekend trip to Prague sometime (probably in the winter when the pub is less busy). I will give you a list of pubs to go to and stuff to try (alternatively you could buy my book when I publish it in the coming weeks!).

I am starting to appreciate just how spoilt I was in the Czech Republic, I crave a great lager but have yet to find anything which approaches something like Kout na Sumave here. Sure there are good ones out that, which I have enjoyed, but none which grips me the way Kout did.

Rob Sterowski said...

There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about climate change, but I don't think this is one of them.

The article is weird. Saaz are, by modern standards, not high in alpha acids to begin with. They're prized for their aroma, not their alpha content.

I suspect the story is basically a fishing expedition by the research team to try and secure some funding from hop growers' organisations.

Brewers Union Local 180 said...

Mr. V. Al: There are some unique lagers and German styles being produced out of McMinnville, Oregon; the Heater Allen Brewing Company ( I don't know how far they distribute. You might have to come out here. I could also recommend a nice place for real ale if you were in the area....

Ed said...

Yes, alpha levels fallen by 0.06% since 1954 doesn't sound too catastrophic.

Erlangernick said...

Do stop at my corner of the world, Franconia, on your way to Prague. K-e-l-l-e-r-b-i-e-r at lovely "little" places in the countryside, and not the nearly-megabrewed St. Georgen Bräu variety, either. Rauchbier? Bah.

There's a second brewery in McMinnville? (click-click...hmmm)
A lager brewery, at that. Wonder how well they'll go over there in Hopfenkopfland.

Sometimes I do miss aspects of west Oregon life. I usually miss the weather.

StringersBeer said...

Of course the point is not so much that a loss of 0.06% per year is of itself a big thing, but rather that AA %age is a good dataset.

The important thing seems to be that hop quality (by at least one measure) is declining in a way which correlates with increasing air temperature (climate change?).

This is pretty much what we'd expect - increased temperature will move some plant ranges towards the poles until they hit day-length problems. The profit margin on some crops is so tight that some currently popular varieties might be effectively lost - relatively soon.

Unknown said...

Al, A trip to Prague is already on my to do list. I did have lager at GBBF that was worthy of further investigation.

Barm, research should help prove or disprove the theory.

BUL180, you are correct of course that Velky Al should indeed visit your part of the world, just as I should visit Prague. He really needs to visit the real ale establishment you are thinking about, it is indeed a very fine place.

Ed, 0.06% per year. My maths don't allow me to be sure how that relates to actual comparisons of alpha acid content. Is it compound? Is it percentages of percentages? Anyway, over 50 years I guess it adds up to a bit.

Nick, Germany too is on my list.

Stringers, I'd have been disappointed if you'd not commented - the one brewer I know who really is taking this seriously and putting his money where his mouth is.

As you suggest, alpha acid is only one measure of hop quality. The point is, like grapes for instance, the growing season effects the plant. I think in considering hops, we put too much emphasis on alpha acid content as a variable and forget about the effects on flavour and aroma. It is possible that Alpha acid content is dropping but flavour and aroma is improved, although I suspect it's the opposite.

Paul Garrard said...

Perhaps the north of England and Scotland will need to become hop growing regions if it becomes too warm in the south?

Cooking Lager said...

There is always a can of lout, here a cookie towers, for you Dave, should you ever be gasping for a drop of fresh refreshing natural and delicious lout. When the natural disaster of global warming strikes, there are those of us with several years supply of fizz stocked up.

Ed said...

Doh! I missed that bit.

I wonder what other hop growing regions are experiencing? The oldest info I have to hand on hops is a Dave Line book from 1974 giving Fuggles alpha of 3.5-4.3%. This seems a bit low to compared to what I've seen in recent years.