Washington State's Drought Is Affecting IPAs

By Mike Pomranz |

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The drought in Washington is hurting farmers and businesses. Almost a third of the state is in an “extreme drought”.  This condition is already expected to wreak havoc on hop supplies and prices affecting some of the most popular hop varieties.

NBC News spoke to Eric Desmarais, owner of Washington’s CLS Farms, who said that though his state’s current drought conditions are problematic across the board, three varietals are especially susceptible to water issues: Centennial, Simcoe and Amarillo – all of which are extremely common in American IPAs. For example, as First We Feast points out, those are three of the four hops used in Russian River’s legendary Pliny the Elder Imperial IPA. Desmarais also said that Cascade, the granddaddy of American IPA hops, can be a bit temperamental as well, though “to a slightly lesser degree.”

With Washington’s Yakima Valley growing over 70 percent of America’s hops and water allocations already down to 44 percent of normal for some growers, it’s easy to see how all of these issues could lead to trouble for America’s most produced craft beer style, the American IPA. Though most of this year’s crop is already sold, price hikes on future crops could lead to outcomes like rising beer prices or reformulated brews.

Another possibility is the brewers might simply brew fewer IPAs. Adam Robbings of Reuben’s Brews in Seattle told the Puget Sound Business Journal, “It might force you into brewing more lagers…. We’d probably end up experimenting more … try to use this as an opportunity to do something different.” Yeah, god forbid anyone have to drink a brown ale!

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