Barley crop is struggling amid drought. Should beer drinkers be worried?

Local News

Barley is a crop grown in North Dakota that can be turned into a pint pulled from the tap.

But conditions this year have not been kind to the crop, as it is failing shortly before the harvest.

Barley producers commonly plant their seeds around the end of April and harvest the grain in early August.

The crop generally thrives in cool, damp conditions, however, this year saw some extreme heat and minimal rain.

This is causing headaches for producers such as Ron Aberle of Menoken.

“It’s over, the yield is already determined,” said Aberle.

The harvest this year is already behind, as more than half of Aberle’s barley has been baled up for cattle feed.

Aberle said, “The better stuff, we’re hoping to run close to 30 bushel.”

When measuring barley, 1 bushel equates to 48 pounds.

Aberle is contracted through Anheuser-Busch and says that these contracts are renewed yearly.

He said the shortfall on the harvest this year may drive up the prices next year, which may trickle down to you — the consumer.

Barley is also used to make malt, a key ingredient in the brewing process, and Aberle says there may be concern for a shortage.

“The malt guys are going to be kind of scrambling. Hopefully, they get enough put together to get through to the next season,” said Aberle.

Jared Stober of Two Track Malting Company says that he’s prepared for a drought such as this, as he has inventory to last for several years.

He said back-to-back droughts spanning over several years can cause a shortage in the future.

However, this year’s dry pattern may already be hiking some prices.

Stober said, “If anything, you know, we’re going to continue to see barley prices go up, especially malting barley. Because with malting barley, it has to have certain specs in order to make malt.”

Craft beers tend to use more malt than a standard pilsner and may be hurt the most from the price increases.

In the end, we can only hope for a wetter pattern this fall going into next year.

Stober said, “Go out and have a beer at your local brewery!”

Currently, the entire state is still in a drought ranging from moderate out to the east, to exceptional, the worst category.

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