Hops that were selling for between $3.50 and $5 per pound last year are commanding prices of as much as $20 to $30 a pound today. The soaring hop prices have convinced farmers to start growing hops again, but that doesn't mean relief is right around the corner. New hop vines take time to mature and these newly planted fields won't produce significant crops for at least another two or three years.
The continued increase in oil prices is also putting pressure on beer prices. Higher oil prices increase the cost to farmers of growing the crops as well as the transportation costs of getting the beer to retailers, which all ultimately gets passed on to the consumer.
When it comes to the price hit from these rising costs, small brewers and microbrewers are feeling the punch the most. While prices for even the large beer producers are up this year, their size allows them to weather the cost increases more readily than the microbreweries.
Large brewers like Anheuser-Busch (BUD), Miller and Coors have hedged their expenses to a large degree with large advance purchases of barley and hops, which smaller breweries aren't able to do.
Here are a few steps that you can take to dampen the effect of the higher beer prices.
Buy from larger breweries: The larger beer companies, due to their size, profits and purchasing power, are able to absorb and delay some of the increased costs. Microbreweries, whose size means they are much more price sensitive, must pass on the price increases to stay in business. If you don't mind drinking beer from the larger beer companies, their prices should rise less than those of the smaller beer companies.
Even if you don't like many of the big label beers, all is not lost. Craft beers have continued to grow in size and currently four out of the top 10 beer companies in overall in size
are craft beer companies: Boston Beer (SAM
) (No. 5), Sierra Nevada (No. 7), New Belgium Brewing (No. 8) and Spoetzl (No. 10).
While it won't be the same as the beer from your local brewery, buying form a larger beer company to save money doesn't mean that you need to drink less flavorful beer.
Buy locally: If you refuse to give up microbrewery beer, choose beer that is made locally. A growing portion of beer price is for the transportation costs of the beer, so those that are made in far-away cities are likely to carry the added cost. Finding the beers that are made closest to you is likely to be a bit less expensive than drinking those arriving from other areas of the U.S.
Buy domestic: In the same way that locally brewed beer will be cheaper than beer made in far off cities, domestic beer is going to be less expensive than foreign beer. In addition to the transportation costs of the beer to the U.S. and then to the retailers, foreign beer companies are also dealing with a weak dollar that makes their product more expensive.
Make your own beer: Making your own beer is not nearly as difficult as you might imagine. While it will take a few tries to get the process down and a few more to experiment with different tastes, if you are willing to stick with it and learn from your mistakes, you can create beer exactly to your liking for about $1 a bottle.
The entire process will also give you more appreciation for the tastes of other beers on the market.
By making a few adjustments to your drinking habits, you should be able to continue to enjoy beer without it breaking your bank account. Nice one, eh?