As a devastating drought rages on in California, hitting both restaurants and breweries hard, Washington State is facing its own water challenges. In May, Washington's governor Jay Inslee declared a statewide drought and NBC reports that could impact your craft beer budget.
According to the USDA, Washington farmers produce 73 percent of the United States' hops — that green bud used to flavor beer. Yet the state's main hop growing region, the Yakima Basin, is also one of the most hard-hit areas for water restrictions. "Every grower is going to have crop loss. I am not saying it is catastrophic or disastrous, but there will be some crop loss associated with it," Washington hop farmer, Eric Desmarais, remarks to NBC. Desmarais adds that some growers are even leaving dedicated hop land fallow due to drought.
"The consumer will pay a higher price for beer. That is without question."
Although the USDA reported an increase in hop acreage across the United States, the Brewers Association warned that drought and climate change are a threat to increases in production. "A low yielding crop could easily swing a five million pound projected increase (over 2014) to a five million or — in worst case scenarios — ten million pound decrease," wrote the association's chief economist, Bart Watson. Water issues "could have devastating effects on the ability of new plantings to mature," he added, concluding that beer lovers should consider a rain dance.
Meanwhile, the booming craft beer industry's hunger for hops will put pressure on the 2016 market and eventually lead to higher consumer beer prices, analyst Michael Butler tells NBC. "You have a shortage of water. You're going to have more demand from the craft breweries, and so you kind of pass the inflection point where the demand is greater for hops than the supply." Butler affirms, "The consumer will pay a higher price for beer. That is without question."
While hops may be hurting in the Evergreen State, there's a bright side to the West Coast's dry spell. Water-parched wine vineyards in California are expecting some extra-delicious varietals this year.