If you don't drink beer, or you haven't heard, there's a pretty bad hops shortage brewing this year.
Read about it here
Some smaller breweries, regional breweries, the ones I love because their beer has flavor, may go out of business over this. Partly because prices are going up, and partly because they might not be able to get hops at any price.
For me, price is not as huge an issue. I like good beer, I'm willing to pay for it, and as my dad pointed out to me, the most expensive beer is, ounce for ounce, cheaper than a halfway decent bottle of wine.
But, before the brewmaster's start turning off their taps, maybe they should think about brewing without hops.
Now, now, hear me out. One, there's no requirement that beers sold in the US have to have hops in them. Unlike Germany, we have no Reinheitsgebot
Two, there is historical precedent for brewing beer without hops. In fact, Charlie The Beer Guy over at Speaking of Beer says that hops are very much a modern addition to beer--well, the 16th century, at any rate.
Before hops, the big preserving agent was Gruit. Gruit is basically a secret blend of eleven herbs and spices--well, a bunch of spices at any rate, and each brewmeister had his secret recipe.
Why can't the brewmeisters go back to gruit-based beers, rather than shutting off their spigots? Isn't the microbrew-drinking populace enlightened enough to be willing and able to forsake the ultra-hoppy beers in fasion right now, and try something unique, but no less tasty?
It'd be really cool to see them try.
There are a few of these old-school beers out on the market, like Fraoch Heather Ale from Scotland, which I've tried. I really liked it: It had some of the floral character of a wheat beer, but none of the wheatiness, which I sometimes find overpowering..
I also see that Dragonmead, a regional brewery, also has a Heather Ale, brewed with heather flowers rather than hops, on its beer list.