From today's Calgary Sun: http://www.calgarysun.com/news/columnists/michael_platt/2011/03/08/17534981.html
What they don't say in the article is that if the price of beer is supposed to go up (and UP), what will it do to the price of bread, buns, cakes, cookies and other products that are made with significant amounts of the same ingredients as what is put into beer?CalgarySun said:First the suds, then the sobs.
For those who love beer, the Summer of '11 may be fondly remembered as the good old days, when ale was still cheap and a six-pack of lager cost less than a medium pizza.
Brewers are warning of ominous clouds on the horizon, thanks to floods, lousy weather and scarce supply of malt -- the key ingredient in the world's third-most popular la beverage.
Prices are already set to spike, and given another poor growing season for barley, and a crop that's already in shortage now could end up being a very rare commodity for those who brew beer.
"The ultimate message is to drink up now -- I don't want to send consumers into a spiral, but I do think 2011 could be the perfect storm," said Dwayne Dubois, chief financial officer at Calgary's Big Rock Brewery.
Blame flooding in Australia, Canada and Russia for the rotten news, which has the Canadian Wheat Board predicting a price increase of up to 33% for malting barely.
And Dubois said barley is just one headache for producers, and with the aluminum used in cans also increasingly hard to come by the future looks grim for those who like cold one.
"In the event that the barley market follows the Wheat Board predictions and aluminium follows the concerns heard on the commodities market, two of our biggest input costs could escalate significantly," said Dubois.
"That price increase would end up being passed on to the consumer."
The gloom is already being felt by those who enjoy a pint, knowing that bad luck and Mother Nature may be conspiring to leave their wallets empty and spirits flat.
"It's like being in Sweden," said Mike Babulic, cursing the forecast for higher prices.
Babulic is club secretary for Calgary's Hash House Harriers, a semi-organized running club devoted to dashing from pub to pub in groups of up to 40 strong.
The well-trained drinker admits the looming price increase is a bitter shock, but Babulic says relief could be a mere tax reduction away -- not that he's holding his breath.
"In Canada most of the price of beer is made up by taxes, so with the budget coming up maybe we'll get a tax break."
He tries to keep a straight face, but then Babulic cracks up at his own joke.
Others, including the wait staff at local bars, aren't laughing at all.
Natalie Bennett, a server at Beckham's Pub in northeast Calgary, says soaring prices are almost never blamed on climate, commodities or acts of nature.
To a customer holding a higher-thanexpected tab, there's only one person at fault.
"It means I'm going to get harassed about beer prices, because I'm the person who sets them, apparently," said Bennett.
Sour comments are one thing -- tiny tips are another.
"It means smaller tips because people are going to be a lot more reticent to hand over money," she said.
"It's going to make a big difference."
Really, there's little anyone can do except pray for a bumper barley crop this summer and drink while the drinking is still relatively cheap.
The only silver lining to the clouds so far has been a wet winter on Canada's prairies, which may persuade more farmers to plant barley because prices are high and the crop has a shorter growing season.
Back at Big Rock, Dubois said there's nothing to do except wait.
"One year it's a terrible crop and the next year it's a bumper crop and it's hard to predict which way it will go with any measure of success," he said.
"We'll have to wait until harvest until we see what it's like."
In the meantime, there's nothing like a cold beer to soothe a worried mind.
"Despite the fact sum-mer has yet to arrive, people should take advantage and consume," said Dubois.