Craft beer prices could rise as wet weather in the west affects barley crop
Sud-makers need to use more barley when crop is wet, which affects prices and flavour
It's enough to put a tear in a craft-brew-lover's beer.
Farmers in Western Canada say the malting barley crop is suffering due to wet weather and that could mean a pricier pint.
At Rebellion Brewing in Regina, brewmaster Mark Heise has been keeping a watchful eye on the soggy harvest conditions.
A wet barley crop can start to germinate, making it difficult to process.
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"One of the real issues for us is running the barley malt through our mill. So, in a bad crop year, if the kernels are really small, they're not going to crack open nicely. They're going to get more pulverized," Heise said.
When the barley is bad, he has to use more of it, which affects his beer-making budget, not to mention the taste.
"Of course, we want that rich, flavourful barley because it's gonna add to the flavour of the beer," he said.
That's the kind of malting barley Rob Stone was hoping to supply, but a rainy August and an early snow got in the way this year.
At his farm northwest of Regina, he lost about two thirds of his malting barley crop, which amounts to a $120,000 hit to his bottom line.
"There's nothing you can do about it. But it's always a difficult spot to be in," he said.
Stone says it's frustrating for barley farmers, who are eager to tap a growing craft-brewery scene.
"They are using a lot more malt barley in their mixes, which is a great thing for our western Canadian barley crop, but it's difficult if we can't get them the quality that they need to make their craft beers," he said.
Canada typically supplies domestic and international markets with about 2-million tonnes of malting barley annually, says Peter Watts, the managing director at the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre in Winnipeg.
But not this year.
"It'll be very hard for us to find 2-million tonnes of malting barley in Western Canada this year, so that's the challenge," he said, adding that it's the third year in a row farmers have dealt with a wet harvest.
"There may be some added costs for both the malting and the brewing industries as a result," he said.
Smaller breweries, like Rebellion Brewing, are more vulnerable to changes in grain prices.
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"The bigger brewers are going to be contracting some of their grain at a very specific spec and they won't accept anything less and guys like us get the leftovers," said Heise.
He says it's too early to tell whether beer-drinkers will see their bar tabs go up.
"Hopefully we wouldn't have to raise...pass those costs onto consumers, but it's kind of a wait and see thing," he said.