Monday, October 29, 2007

The Coming Carbonated Crisis

From the Denver Post:

Shortages may put head on beer prices

SUNNYSIDE, WASH. — Fans of Snipes Mountain Brewery's cloudy Hefeweizen relish the subtle wheat flavor of the bright, summery brew, and like beer drinkers everywhere, they know when their favorite brew tastes a little too hoppy or bitter.

Connoisseurs could be in for a surprise this year, and they may not be alone.

Small brewers from Australia to Oregon face the daunting prospect of tweaking their recipes or experimenting less with new brews thanks to a worldwide shortage of one key beer ingredient and rising prices for others.

Oh, and one other thing: Beer prices are likely to climb. Craft brewers don't have the means to hedge against rising prices, like their industrial rivals.

"I'm guessing, at a minimum, at least a 10 percent jump in beer prices for the average consumer before the end of the year," said Terry Butler, brewmaster at central Washington's Snipes Mountain.

Fuel, aluminum and glass prices have been going up quickly over a period of several years. Barley and wheat prices have skyrocketed as more farmers plant corn to meet increasing demand for ethanol, while others plant feed crops to replace acres lost to corn.

CNN's Headline News reported today that micro brewed beers could hit ten dollars a six pack. Even as I speak Texas' beloved Shiner beers are steadily marching steadily towards eight dollars a six pack. This price increase is part of the larger trend that includes higher dairy and beef prices that was caused by the subsidization of corn to create more ethanol to help us achieve energy independence.

So what's a fella to do? Either eat the price increases and consider it your contribution to energy independence , lobby your lawmakers to promote waste based ethanol research, or do some homework on brewing your own beer.

Given the current bulk grain prices at the store this could spur on a new trend of home brewing.