Cry in Your Beer: Price of a Pint Goes Way Up

A hops shortage has beer brewers scrambling. The key ingredient in the all-American beverage quadrupled in price last year. Add to that increasing barley prices and it means bad news for the boozers and the brewers.

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ALISON STEWART, host:

Now, this is a business story. It's business and beer, which means that THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT producers were all over it.

A hops shortage of beer brewers, they have been scrambling worldwide. The key ingredient to the all-American beverage, well, all Americans like it, apparently. Well, that went 400 percent last year. Add to that the increasing barley prices and it means bad news for drinkers and brewers. You can blame it on the bad weather, growers going to other industries, even ethanol subsidies.

DANIEL HOLLOWAY, host:

The bottom line is some pub-goers in Manhattan are already dishing out 50 cents more for a pint of microbrew. That may not seem like much, but prices might shoot up even more this year in some markets by up to three more dollars for a six-pack. Ouch.

STEWART: Beer lovers and BPP producers, Paulina Bartolone, Pauline, excuse me, and Win Rosenfeld, they were really into this. They went out. They did some research. They came back. And you don't look like you've been drinking a whole lot of beer, but then, of course, it's 8:30 in the morning.

PAULINE BARTOLONE: Not today. No.

STEWART: Not today. So, you guys went to Chelsea Brewery with your video camera for a dual multi-media piece for our blog. Pauline, how are they coping with this shortage?

BARTOLONE: Well, basically, the guy at Chelsea Brewery said that - what Heartland Brewery told us is that they're increasing prices by 50 percent a pint. But they're also kind of having to do - 50 cents. What did they say? Dollars?

WIN ROSENFELD: Yeah. Fifty percent, which is what (unintelligible).

BARTOLONE: Fifty cents. No. That's - that would be astronomical.

HOLLOWAY: No.

BARTOLONE: That was cents.

STEWART: Fifty cents a pint.

BARTOLONE: Fifty cents a pint. But they're also having to do the old switcharoo(ph) in production having to get really creative. Use the brewer's art, you know, using one - substituting one kind of hops to use another one. And they also had to discontinue one type of beer so they could keep their signature beer.

STEWART: Win, what about corn use? I understand corn use is a some kind…

ROSENFELD: Yeah. I mean, the - apparently, there's like a cardinal sin of micro brewing is using corn. It's just totally not done. And a lot - even a lot of the major brewers do use, I mean, you know, Annheiser Busch uses it and all of these, you know, enough what keeps their beer so cheap.

But if you're, you know, if you have pride and you're a micro-brewer like our guy did, I mean, it's either it's hops, barley, yeast and water, period. And that you sort of find your art in that combination.

SETWART: Let's take a little listen to him. His name's Christian. Is that right?

ROSENFELD: That's right.

(Soundbite of interview)

CHRISTIAN (Brewer, Chelsea Brewery): The usage of corn just increases the amount of sugar you get in your (unintelligible) without imparting any flavor or color characteristic. And it's just cheap, and it just makes your beer watery and thin. And we're not about that. We're a micro-brewery. This is about beer with character.

STEWART: All right. So how does this affect me, beer drinker, Pauline?

BARTOLONE: Well, it probably already means that you're paying 50 cents more for your pint.

STEWART: Yeah.

BARTOLONE: But what we don't really know, I talked to somebody from the Brewers Association. And she says that we should be looking out for some announcements the next coming months about just how much we should be paying in 2008. We really don't know right now what's going to happen. But in some markets in Athens online, Athens, Georgia, it could be up to three dollars. So…

STEWART: All right, Pauline and Win. People who want more details on this beer story, check out our blog. Their video report will be up there to answer your questions.

Thanks, guys.

ROSENFELD: Thanks.

BARTOLONE: Thanks.

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