Nobody is calling it "beerpocalypsemageddon" or anything idiotic like that quite yet, and I'm certainly not implying that it's time to panic and start hoarding cases of beer in a deep, razor-wire covered pit in the backyard*—but you should probably know that beer could get a lot more expensive next year.
According to the Billings Gazette, heavy rains late last month in Idaho and Montana—the nation's two largest malt-barley producing states—caused much of the unharvested barley still in the field to sprout, rendering it useless except as animal feed.
That means that the price of beer will likely rise in 2015 (nobody is sure on how much) as brewers big and small pay more for a dwindling supply of usable malt barley.
"We've been told to expect major price increases for malt," said Tim Mohr of Angry Hank's Brewery in Billings. "There is no panic yet. Everybody has been telling us not to panic. There is carry-over from last year's malt supply. Our prices are stable until January, but beer prices are going up."
Officials say that in some places in north-central Montana—the self-described Malt Barley Capital of the World—the wet weather has caused over 50 percent of the crop to germinate.
To put that into context, most brewers usually only tolerate 1-2 percent germination, at most. In order for barley to work in the brewing process, the germination process has to be very carefully controlled—usually in large vats.
"In all of our years of farming, this is the worst damage we've had in malt barley, ever."
If the ruined crop is turning into a pricey headache for brewers, it's turning into a genuine financial shitshow for malt barley growers like Bos, who have watched their high-dollar crop deteriorate into low-dollar food for cows.
Just a few weeks earlier, rain similarly wrecked the malt barley crops in Idaho and North Dakota. The unusually wet weather is threatening malt barley crops in southern Canada as well.
In the short term, however, the record 2013 Canadian malt barley harvest left such a massive surplus that prices for brewers (and beer drinkers) will probably remain stable at least until next January.
But after that, well...let's just kneel down and pray that America's liquor and various drug industries can step up and keep the nation suitably numbed until the next good barley harvest comes through.
*Unless you were planning on doing that anyway, of course. Please send pics!
Image via AP