Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Climate change affecting hops quality?

Posted By on Tue, Sep 15, 2009 at 1:11 PM

hops.091509.jpg

You might not have minded when it affected the polar bears -- they're not as cute and cuddly as the cartoons suggest. But you might want to know that climate change is potentially ruining your beer.

Let's set aside the arguments over global warming and just assume it is not up for debate, similar to your beer being served cold as opposed to warm. A Czech climatologist believes that the quality of hops in the Czech Republic has declined because of an increase in air temperature over the past few years because of climate change.

Martin Mozny of the Czech Hyrdometeorological Institute has led a team of researchers to study the concentration of alpha acids in regional hops since 1954. His team has recorded a 0.06 percent annual decrease in alpha acids and predictive models suggest that decline could be larger in the coming years.

Alpha acids are one of the two acids in hops. The higher the alpha acid content, the more bitterness contributed to a beer. Alpha Acid Units are the standard measurement for the potential bitterness in hops and helps a brewer determine how much hops to use when brewing a new batch.

The potential for dramatic change in the AAU of hops could be

devastating to brewers because it makes it difficult to produce the

same beer. There are always subtle differentiations in hops according

to the growing conditions, drying methods and age of the hops. The key

word there is subtle. Beer brewing is about consistency, being able to

reproduce the same flavor profile by mixing ingredients.

European Commission crop specialist Francesco Tubiello warns that this isn't a problem isolated to the Czech Republic:

"The famous hop-growing regions of eastern Germany and central Slovakia are facing the same situation."

So toast environmentalists. They might just be preserving craft beer for future generations.

[Image via Flickr: james cridland]

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