I sat typing away at my keyboard one wintry day at a local brewery. A beautiful, brilliantly clear pale ale with a rich head kept me company and served as my muse. My calendar said January, but the sunny, 60-degree temperature outside suggested late spring. “If this is climate change,” I thought, “I could get used to this.”
I discovered the world of beer in college. Despite my best efforts, I also graduated with a degree in environmental studies, examining the intricate, web-like relationship of all things that make up an ecosystem. For me, the two were completely unrelated, until I had an epiphany last October. A flurry of reports came out warning that climate change will affect barley production, thus driving beer prices higher. All the old college lectures, visits to farms and time spent learning about beer were a jigsaw puzzle, and these warnings were the final piece. The world of beer is its own complex and web-like ecosystem of terroir, farmers, brewers, distribution, retailers and consumers. A seemingly small change in any of these links will affect the strength of the entire chain.
Climate Armageddon may or may not be the life-altering dystopia some envision. Still, it may drastically alter the quality of our beer-filled lives. If we truly vote with our dollars, then the opportunity to shape our social ecosystem through our beer choices is completely in our hands. We can have our beer, and drink it, too. We may be able to have it all if we only make a series of wise choices that set us up for a better, beer-filled future.
The following is a partial list of Oregon beer businesses contributing solutions
to environmental challenges.
Fort George Brewery (Astoria)
Full Sail Brewing Co. (Hood River)
Hopworks Urban Brewery (Portland)
Ninkasi Brewing Company (Eugene)
Standing Stone Brewing Co. (Ashland)
Widmer Brewing (Portland)
Other related entities
Oregon Brewshed Alliance