November 1st, 2019

Americans 21 and older drank 26 gallons of beer and cider per person in 2018. But extreme weather due to climate change has started to disrupt the business of brewing.

“Beer is over 90% water and being headquartered here in Colorado we are very prone to drought and forest fires,” says Katie Wallace, director of social & environmental impact at New Belgium Brewing, a craft brewer in Fort Collins.  “Whether we’re dealing with invasive algae in the east or forest fires in the west, water quality can be affected any time.” 

Beyond water, Wallace notes that as certain ingredients become more volatile due to disrupted weather patterns, “it really reduces the amount that we have to play with, and that’s kind of the keystone of the craft beer movement is that we have all of these fun ingredients to play with.”

The prognosis for wine is somewhat different – or, as Esther Mobley, wine critic at the San Francisco Chronicle, puts it, “in the short term it’s kind of a lot of good news among some not so good news.” 

Warming temperatures have resulted in an expanded global map of wine growing regions, she explains, adding that “regions that have produced wine for a long time like Burgundy in France or Oregon … can now count on kind of consistently having a warm enough, ripe enough vintage to have a great, great crop every year.”

For Dan Petroski, a winemaker at Larkmead Vineyards in the Napa Valley north of San Francisco, it's never been a better time to be a wine drinker. But he is anticipating more change.

“When we start talking about wine and climate change we’re talking about the agricultural impacts of climate change,” he says, “and we’re gonna be thinking about other grape varieties because our region of choice may not be precisely proper for those grapes that we've been historically and traditionally planting.”

Related links:
The end of Cabernet in Napa Valley? (San Francisco Chronicle)
Decreases in global beer supply due to extreme drought and heat (Nature.com)
Larkmead Vineyards
New Belgium Brewing
Articles by Esther Mobley

Speakers at this Event

Wine Critic, The San Francisco Chronicle

Winemaker, Larkmead Vineyards

Director of Social & Environmental Impact, New Belgium Brewing