Keeping You in the Know

Pandemic Still Hitting Local Brewers

Vol 1 Brewing Beer “Barley and Malt Supply Issues”

Over the next coming weeks, Schoolhouse Brewing will take a look at how the global pandemic is still causing severe issues for small breweries. These issues are happening in part by supply chain issues, but also by climate change and labor shortages. We plan to look and see how this is going to affect the state of the craft beer culture across the nation, with a specific focus on shortages of barley, gas, and aluminum.

Barley or malt is one of the four parts that make a beer. These grains are used to produce sugar that will eventually turn into alcohol by fermentation. The malt bill is the second most significant part of any beer recipe next to the water. With the growing shortage of these ingredients, the breweries will see an increase in pricing, lead times for the grains, and a challenge to produce beers we all love.

Supply Chain:

One of the significant problems for craft beer professionals is just getting the foreign-grown barley. The crux of this dilemma is the lack of shipping containers. “Anything outside of the U.S. is in con-trainers and there are an awful lot of shipping containers in the U.S., rather than China or Germany, because of the trade imbalance”, commented Chuck Skypeck, technical brewing projects manager for the Brewers Association. “We haven’t had anything to send back to other countries, and shipping them empty is expensive. This has led to 12-20 weeks of shipping time from the growers in Germany and England.”

Climate Issues:

Many of us agree that the climate is causing a massive issue with all agricultural elements across the board, whether vegetables, meat, or just raw ingredients. And this year has been interesting for the North American barley growers. Two thousand twenty-one has seen temperatures that have been cooler than usual in many of the barley farming regions, mixed with extreme summer heat, drought, wildfires, and floods in other areas of the growing regions. Thought to have been caused by the ocean cooling effect of 2021’s La Nina, these issues have caused shorter growing seasons and have triggered an extreme shortage for the farmers.

Labor Shortage:

There has been an actual crisis brewing in manufacturing, construction, and other skilled labor-related jobs in America, causing a shrinking supply of skilled workers to fill open positions. This labor shortage has been well-documented throughout the country. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the nation’s need for skilled trades increases much faster than the growth of employment overall. The labor shortage is seen everywhere, from the farms to the docks and truck drivers, causing the deficit to be even more imminent.  
So what does these mean:
Well, folks, with the shortage of barley, you are going to see a change in the beers that you have come to love. Here are just a few possible outcomes:

  1. Less high gravity beers to compensate for the lack of barley. “I do love a great pilsner!
  2. Higher prices in the market for the consumer that wants a higher gravity/beer that is made with large grain bills.
  3. Less diversity of beer styles in the market, but more limited releases at the brewery.
  4. Brewer’s using more adjunct grains to produce new types of beers. Innovation is the key to solving most problems.  

But, the good news is that we hope that this hiccup will be short-lived like most of the issues we are all facing in this fantastic time we live in! Cheers