As climate change continues to have profound effects on the weather around us, will what we eat and drink be affected as well?
One researcher from North Carolina State (NC State) University is arguing that in the case of beer, both the taste and the cost may be significantly affected.
In a guest post for the NC State News, associate professor of molecular and structural biochemistry Colleen Doherty discussed how the changing climate and extreme weather patterns we’re witnessing will affect the flavor compounds we find in beer.
When it comes to cost, a 2018 report from Nature has already shown that rising temperatures and drought frequency may increase the price of barley and hops, the two key agricultural ingredients in beer production.
Doherty argues that climate change today is also leading to alterations in daily and seasonal weather patterns that can effect various properties of both barley and hops.
Climate change will change the way beer tastes. Yes, really. Here’s why…https://t.co/xHqdGtRm8M— Matt Shipman (@ShipLives) August 18, 2020
One of the major reasons, according to Doherty, is that environmental changes will affect the terroir of hops. Similar to what you would find in wine, long-term temperature changes will alter a hop’s life cycle and influence to produce differing amounts of defensive compounds, including those that produce aromas in beer, that will change its flavor composition when added to the beverage.
Likewise, that effect on terroir can also change the ratio of protein and starch in the barley used to brew beer. This will change the quality of the extracted malt at the core of the brewing process, meaning that sweetness, carbohydrate count, protein content, and more could be affected too.
It is unclear exactly how the taste of different beers will change over time, there’s just scientific evidence that they will change. Doherty is researching that as part of her work at NC State, and as time goes on, we’ll be able to taste the difference too.
Professor Doherty does note that not all changes in the taste or quality of beer in the future will be due to climate change; in fact, beer itself has been changing as processes and technology around it have changed over thousands of years.
However, climate change can and will cause changes out of our control that alter beer’s flavor and may increase its cost as well.