Deakin Communicating Science 2016

EES 200/101

Beer Taps Running Dry

In my last post I wrote about Australia’s water shortage, but this is causing another national shortage: BEER. More specifically craft beers such as James Squire and Hawkers.

Craft beer is brewed using hand selected ingredients, specifically picked with certain flavour characteristics in mind and brewed with the end goal of flavourful, quality beer. One of these ingredients is known as Hops which are the flowers of the hop plant Humulu lupulus.

Hops are added to beer to counter the sweetness from the malt as they contain an essential oil with a very bitter flavour. This creates a more balanced beer whilst at the same time acting as a preservative. Breweries select and adjust different types of hops to change the sweet and bitterness ratio of the beer, this is achieved by changing when the hops are added to the beer as well as how long they are boiled for (Nance & Setzer, 2011). The only bad thing about using hops in beer is that there is not enough being produced within Australia to meet the demands of the Craft Breweries.

Due to the drought the growth, quality and yield of Hops crops is being impaired (Reuters, 2016). During the drought the plant becomes stressed and responds by triggering different molecular and cellular processes. Just like animals, plants need to breath. They do this by taking in CO2 through very small pores in the outer layer of the leaves – known as the epidermis. These small pores are called Stomata and when they open they let water vapour out of the plant. During a drought plants want to minimise any types of water loss, they do this by restricting stomatal opening but this also restricts the intake of CO2 (Flexas & Medrano, 2002).

CO2 is a major component of a process by which plants get their energy from. Photosynthesis produces sugar and oxygen by using sunlight to convert water and CO2. During a drought photosynthesis is significantly decreased as water becomes a scarcity, stomatal opening is restricted and therefore CO2 intake is also decreased (Lawlor, 2002). This all results in less energy being produced by and for the plant.

With a decrease in energy production, the Hops plant is unable to grow to its full potential. Leaf expansion decreases further limiting CO2 intake and sunlight capture resulting in reduced crop production (Kolenc et al., 2015). Within Australia there is already a high demand for Hops but the drought has further increased this demand.

Hops plants are perennial, meaning that they live for more than 2 years, blooming and producing seeds over the spring and summer (Nance & Setzer, 2011). This means that the drought is not going to affect just one harvest but will also affect the future harvests as well. With the demand for hops beer increasing, breweries are forced to buy whatever types of hops they can get their hands on even at inflated prices.

Breweries have been forced to hold off on making some types of their craft beer, and having to increase the price on the ones that they are continuing to make. Some craft beers have experienced price increases of over 50% (Reuters, 2016).

Who would have thought that something that falls from the sky, something we take for granted on a daily basis, could have such an effect on the prices of products on our shelves?


Flexas, J & Medrano, H 2002, ‘Drought‐inhibition of Photosynthesis in plants: Stomatal and Non‐stomatal Limitations Revisited’, Annals of Botany, vol. 89, no. 2, pp. 183-189 <>

Kolenc, Z, Vodnik, D, Mandelc, S, Javornik, B, Kastelec, D & Cerenak, A 2015, ‘Hop (Humulus lupulus L.) response mechanisms in drought stress: Proteomic analysis with physiology’, Plant Physiology and Biochemistry, vol. 105, no. 6, pp. 67-78 <>

Lawlor, DW 2002, ‘Limitation to Photosynthesis in Water‐stressed Leaves: Stomata vs. Metabolism and the Role of ATP’, Annals of Botany, vol. 89, no. 7, pp.871-885 <>

Nance, MR, Setzer, WN 2011, ‘Volatile components of aroma hops (Humulus lupulus L.) commonly used in beer brewing’, Journal of Brewing and Distilling, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 16-22 <>

Reuters, 2016, ‘Shortages have brewers on the hop’, The West Australian, 13 April, retrieved 5 May 2016 <>






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This entry was posted on May 5, 2016 by in Burwood - Wednesday 11am, Uncategorized.

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