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Tough economy raising price of beer

April 18, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
It's almost time for outdoor barbecues and warm-weather fun, but thirsty Americans will have to pay more cold cash for a hot-weather favorite: a cold beer. Like everything else, the price of a six-pack of beer is going up -- way up. Times are tough these days. The economy is teetering on the brink of a recession. Property values are plummeting while foreclosures are skyrocketing. And enjoy watching those numbers soar as you fill up your gas tank. Economic trouble, it seems, is brewing. And brewers are not immune.

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"Say a prayer to the beer gods!" says beer brewer "Blackwell."

That's the head brewer for the Belmont Brewing Company in Long Beach. He goes simply by the name Blackwell, but brewing these days is not very simple at all. That's because there's a worldwide shortage of barley.

"We've seen a 70 percent increase in our barley prices," says Blackwell. And even less of hops -- which means: "It's more expensive to make our beers now," says Blackwell.

You can blame farmers for switching their crops to ethanol sources, or bad weather for wiping out barley and hops harvests, but either way, things have not been hoppin' for the hops crops.

"We're hopin' they'll be hoppin!" says Blackwell. But that would be for next year.

In the meantime, the higher costs of brewing beer will translate into a higher cost of drinking beer.

Big-label beers are up some four percent this year. And Blackwell says the smaller brewers are even more susceptible to hops and barley hikes. Cause for some folks to cry in their microbrews, or at least start planning for.

"That's something that I put into my budget," says beer drinker Brandon Terry. "It's just like gas: You gotta have a beer."

"That's why I ride my bike to work, so I can drink more beer!" says Bryan Gorrell.

All those economic woes, it seems, are quite literally coming to a head, which means all those folks who are drowning in debt are going to end up paying more just to drown their sorrows.

"I'll bite the bullet," says Terry. "The bullet has been bitten."

 

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