Climate – A Beer Analogy

Small markets are influenced heavily by the weather.

Let’s take one of my recent favorites for example; I made the mistake of getting really into the craft beer craze going on right now in the US, before coming to Honduras. Honduras is not known for its craft beer.

In the US, the beer industry is running into an issue of sustainability. By this I don’t just mean environmentally friendly; I also mean the continued existence of some companies are being threatened.

Remember that Coors commercial, where the rugged guy bends down and scoops up a glass of water and says ‘it’s in the water’? Well that water is going away. Most people know about the drought occuring in California, but not everyone is aware of how that might be affecting their favorite brew.

I’m not sure anyone is going to be too broken up if there is less Coors Light on the shelves, but take Lagunitas for example; they are getting closer to actually changing water sources – from the Russian River to ground water flows – that they say will actually make the beer taste worse.

Some companies on the same river have ceased distributing to other markets. “Sounds pretty grim…” says Peter Egelston, founder of Smuttynose, “but it’s a new reality.” The Smuttynose brewery is in New England, where recent and severe winters have made it hard on production.

Apparently, they pay a lot of attention to something called the ‘building envelope,’ which is everything from insulation to A/C and heating controls. Anything energy related is tightly monitored to keep the brewing going evenly. Other companies are discovering innovations to cope as well: Sierra Nevada is capturing its CO2 outputs and using it to carbonate its own beer and some in Oregon are even using geothermal heating.

Now, Honduras has four types of beer (Barena, Port Royale, Salva Vida, and Imperial) all of which come from the same company Cervezeria Hondureña. As it turns out, they are a subsidiary of SAB Miller, which means in an average store you can get either Honduran beer or a Miller and the Miller is the more quality drink.

Honduran alcohol issues come more from trafficking, where cheaper drinks are snuck in from Nicaragua and undercut the market here. The aim of this post, however, is to build upon an earlier point I made about environmental effects in low-income economies. Beer production in Honduras may be the only one not threatened by climate change.

There is no ‘building envelope’ for agricultural production. Construction and transportation – which employs scores of people – is slowed by more intense flooding and storms. Your favorite beer disappearing from the local Trader Joes or Food Lion is a bummer; losing your household income because of a drought is a tragedy. If we trace our favorite issues to the the ones affecting low-income economies, we see a totally different set of consequences.

19 breweries signed a Brewery Climate Declaration including giants like Guinness, New Belgium, and Red Hook. Yeah, beer cares about climate change. Nobody asked for it, but I’d like to cast my vote for Honduran labor and say they probably care too.

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