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Hops

Weather affects all crops, including these hops whose flower buds add unique flavors, aroma and bitterness to beer.

Q: How does weather affect beer making?

A: Weather affects all crops, as all plants prefer certain climatic regimes.

Fermented grain is an important ingredient in beer brewing. It defines the alcohol content.

Hops are just as critical, as the flower buds of hop plants add unique flavors, aroma and bitterness to the beer.

Hops grow very fast and require a lot of water. As the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. gets a lot of precipitation, this is a major hop-growing region as irrigation needs are limited. Washington State produces almost three-quarters of the hops used in U.S. beers, with Oregon and Idaho contributing the second-most hops. A drought in those regions would significantly reduce yields of hops and impact the beer brewing economy, leading to higher prices and a change in taste of some brands.

In 2015 the hops growing region of the Northwest had an unusually warm winter that led to widespread drought. As a result of the warm winter, the Cascades got mostly rain, and a substantially reduced snowpack resulted. By May, an important time for the hops to be watered, the area was starved for water as there was no snow to melt.

Hops are grown on a type of hemp plant and grow best in hardiness zones.

If you are a beer drinker who likes hoppy IPAs, you might hope for the Northwest to avoid developing a drier climate.

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"Weather Guys" Steve Ackerman and Jonathan Martin are professors in the University of Wisconsin-Madison department of atmospheric and oceanic sciences.

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