I am beginning to worry as I see all the new breweries coming to market in North Carolina. Not that their beer won’t be stellar, that the growth will lead to insufficient supplies of malt and hops which will ultimately end in the demise of some breweries. New hop farms are not popping up anywhere close to the rate at which new breweries are opening their doors. Farmers aren’t dropping their current crop to switch to barley. What does this mean for the consumer? I see rising prices as the end result and breweries trying to beg, borrow, and steal ingredients. All it takes is one hop warehouse fire or a natural occurrence such as too much rain or a hailstorm and the next thing you know hops triple in price and malt doubles. The larger breweries have contracts in place to be sure they can sustain their production, but the small brewery is in the same boat as a homebrewer just trying to find enough ingredients to keep the taps flowing. The smart money right now is tap-room sales for a new startup brewery. All the profit stays in-house and if ingredient costs escalate no one will blink when the price of that pint goes from $3.50 to $4. Now if you are out and about and the local startup is already $6 and bumps to $6.50-$7 unless you are loyal fan you’ll look for a less expensive alternative.
I’m glad to see the brewing industry booming, but I’m a little worried how long it will be before the bubble bursts.