Over at Wired.com, a piece by David Kravets on one odd effect of the (i can't believe I'm typing this) global food shortages -- artisanal beer brewers are reformulating recipes to reduce the amount of increasingly costly hops:
At Pacific Coast Brewing here, brewer Donald Gortemiller is reworking his recipes and altering his brewing styles like never before.Link. (photo by Jim Merithew, Wired.com; thanks, Wayneco)
Gortemiller isn't acting on a spurt of creativity. He's coping with a worldwide shortage of hops -- the spice of beer. The dry cones of a particular flowering vine, hops are what give your favorite brew its flavor and aroma. Prices of the commodity are skyrocketing as hop supplies have plummeted, forcing smaller brewmasters around the United States to begin quietly tweaking their recipes, in ways that are easily discerned by serious imbibers.
The shortage -- caused by a dwindling number of hop growers worldwide, and exacerbated by a Yakima, Washington, warehouse fire -- has forced Gortemiller to use fewer and different hops than before, changing the flavor of his beer. He's also resorted to beer hacks, like "dry hopping," in which the hops are added late to the mix, consuming fewer hops and yielding a more consistent flavor.
"When hops were $2 a pound, compared to $20 or $30 a pound now, it didn't matter. We'd throw them into the boil at various times," Gortemiller says. "That was an inaccurate way of doing things. We're modifying recipes and using about 20 percent less hops."
Update: BB commenter Pipenta has a solution:
Those big breweries that are making crap beer anyway can substitute other, um, natural substances for the hops.
For Bud and Bud Lite, bull terrier piddle should do the trick. For Heineken, a pole cat tincture is just the ticket.
In neither case, will any animals be harmed. For the first, all that is required is a convenient drain installed alongside a fireplug. And the Heineken folks just need to open a spa for skunks and change out the hot tub water on a daily basis.