Climate change is already impacting beer production #beerproblems


Think Progress has a summary of how climate change is going to impact beer breweries. Luckily, the article suggests that breweries are already working to beat the problem. The main ingredients of beer are water, barley, and hops, all of which are impacted negatively by climate change.

Beyond adapting to the impacts of climate change, however, some breweries are directly trying to lower their carbon emissions that help fuel climate change. Many are finding it’s also saving them money.


Did I get your attention? Great!  Turns out there is quite a bit of science involved when it comes to one of our favorite beverages: beer.  I’m not going to go into detail on the science of brewing beer… although, if you want some info on that, this blog breaks it down very nicely.


Instead, ever wonder what makes beer go skunky?  Turns out we’re not just beer snobs intolerable of beer that has been sitting around too long… old beer, especially if it sits out in the light, does in fact get “skunked” as a result of a chemical reaction.  This isn’t a new finding, but interesting nonetheless. Here’s how it works:

Hops (the stuff that makes your beer taste good- or bad to some- and foamy) and hop-derived products are readily broken down by light in a process called photodegradation.  The resulting product? An analogous compound to whats found in the glands of.. you guessed it… skunks.  Research has been done by groups in Belgium (no surprises there) and UNC-Chapel Hill (my alma mater, Go Heels!) to determine the precise steps in this chemical reaction.  

And not only is it cool to figure this out, but profitable too!  Turns out one way to prevent or stall “skunking” is by bottling beer in dark bottles.  But for brands like Corona or Miller, known for their clear bottles, changing bottle color could be detrimental to sales.  Hence, by understanding the photodegradation of hops, scientists can work towards creating modified hops, that cannot be broken down, resulting in un-skunkable beer!

Another instance of why it pays to invest in science.  Not only is it fascinating to learn how things work… but in this case… research actually can lead to more sales and better tasting beer!  I think that’s a cause we can all get behind.