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Sparks

Enjoy That Pilsner While You Still Can

Scientists have another grim prediction about the future of booze.

Oktoberfest.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

A new study in Nature Communications has sounded a sour note for drinkers of European beer, predicting that increasing heat will affect the yield and quality of hops in Germany, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic — potentially making much of the continent’s beer taste worse and cost more. Researchers’ models, which spanned 2021 to 2050, foresaw “a decline in hop yields from 4.1–18.4% when compared to 1989–2018.” As the climate warms, hops will suffer, and in some places, they already are, with average yields in one Slovenian area falling 19.4% in recent years. What’s more, the hops’ alpha content, which produces a beer’s unique flavor and smell, could fall from 20% to 31% by 2050.

The study urges hop farmers to adapt, and some are already acting, planting in wetter areas, changing the spacing of crop rows, and breeding heat-resistant varieties. One German farmer toldThe Guardian that the amount of rain that fell in his region hadn't changed, but that “the rain does not come at the right time.” In response, he built an irrigation system to feed his thirsty plants: “We would have big problems if we couldn’t water [the hops].”

Miroslav Trnka, a co-author of the study, told The Guardian that “beer drinkers will definitely see the climate change, either in the price tag or the quality ... that seems to be inevitable from our data.” And it won't be as simple as just switching to a different type of booze: There's mounting evidence that climate change is threatening the production of whiskey, wine, and even margaritas. The once-simple pleasure of wasting away has never felt so fraught.

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Jacob Lambert profile image

Jacob Lambert

Jacob is Heatmap's founding multimedia editor. Before joining Heatmap, he was The Week's digital art director and an associate editor at MAD magazine.

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