Featured Contributor: Andrew Newton @DrinkMeLocal
We’ve spent two hundred years industrializing and centralizing beer production. But what if all that was taken away?
While perusing my Father-in-Law’s bookshelf recently I came across this gem:
It was published in 1974 as an encyclopedia of independence. It would be the perfect fit for a Cold War bomb shelter to teach you all the things you’d need to learn about homesteading after the apocalypse. It covers everything from farming to medicine to governance. Unfortunately homebrewing was illegal in America at the time so there was no mention of it.
It got me thinking though. How will we make beer in that future? What will we do without European or Pacific hops? Or how will we brew with limited access to Midwest barley?
Craft beer may have grown out of a general disdain for fizzy yellow lager, but it’s now riding the wave of the locavore movement. While a strict one hundred mile diet isn’t common, choosing local over foreign when available has become very popular. And some micros have jumped on the bandwagon and teamed up with local farms. In my neck of the woods Garrison Brewery discovered hops growing on a farm museum. Apparently the East Coast used to be a large producer of hops in the early 20th century until disease ruined the crops and they moved out west, leading to our modern disease resistant varieties. With no knowledge of what exactly they were using, Garrison made a beer with these museum hops. It was great publicity at the very least. They’ve also made headlines for funding local farming projects dedicated to growing new hopyards in return for multi year purchase agreements.
Grain may be harder to come by, but it’s making a resurgence. Despite the fact that the three major maltsters in Canada are almost one thousand miles away, and that most farmland in the region is dedicated to livestock and hay, there are those that want to bring it back home. There is a small scale maltster opening in Nova Scotia this year. It seems like a risky proposition since only the top 10% of barley is suitable to be malted. In the short term the ‘new and local’ vibe will be enough to support them regardless of the quality they put out, but newness wears off. If they cannot supply enough quality product the craft breweries will be forced to return to the macro malt companies. At least until the apocalypse.
There are plenty of films and shows that show us what the future might look like. The cause could be weapons of mass destruction, zombies, or aliens. Without mass communications and electricity we’ll lose just about all of our creature comforts. Life will become different, fast. No refrigeration, no mass transport, and no warehousing.
This is how Big Beer ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.
It’s craft breweries, with connections to local farms, that will continue producing beer. Or maybe it will devolve even further. ‘Farmhouse ale‘ could become more than just an eclectic style, it may become the standard.
Most beers will see an increase in alcohol strength until 8-10% becomes the norm. These will keep longer and reduce spoilage. Added flavours like herbs, fruit, or honey will become more important to cover up any flaws in the fermentation. I hope you like West Coast IPAs and everything Imperial.
Seasonal variations will become the rule instead of the exception.
Lager will be produced seasonally and stored in cool caverns during the summer months. Where it is difficult to regulate storage temperatures we’ll see a return of session ales that can be consumed as soon as they are ready without worrying about longevity.
The winter will be full of dark and malty brews. Stouts, porters, barleywines. Anything with the body and alcohol to provide some warmth during the cold winter evenings.
The progress Craft Beer has made in the past forty years will ensure we have at least some local ingredients to work with. Life in the future may be ‘nasty, brutish and short’ but hey, there’ll always be craft beer on tap. Maybe it won’t be so bad.
Andrew Newton is a beer and wine writer that likes to keep it local. He lives in the land of Tidal Bay and blogs irregularly at DrinkMeLocal.ca
Sign up for our newsletter!
This MailChimp shortcode is now deprecated. Please insert the new shortcode to display this form.