Thursday, October 05, 2006

Fire in Washington state burned 4 percent of the nation's hops crop.

Beer-drinkers may soon get less brew for their buck.

The price of beer is feared to be in jeopardy after a fire in Washington state burned 4 percent of the nation's hops crop.

Twenty-four percent of hops used worldwide is grown in the United States, mostly in the Washington's Yakima Valley region.

Flames engulfed a 40,000-square-foot storehouse in Yakima on Monday ruining $4 million worth of hops, an essential crop used to flavor beer during the brewing process.

Prices are likely to increase if the ruined hops were of a scarce variety, but industry officials are urging consumers otherwise.

"This isn't like the oil industry, where if there is a leak in a pipeline, prices go up immediately," said Ann George, administrator of the Washington Hop Commission. "They're an important ingredient but not a terribly expensive one."

She added that even if the cost of hops increases by 50 percent, there would still be only 2.5 cents worth of hops in every 31 gallons of beer.

The storehouse was owned by S. S. Steiner Inc., a division of the German Steiner Group, one of the largest manufacturers of hops in the United States. On the eve of UF's Homecoming weekend, the possible threat of rising beer prices has not dampened any spirits.

"If prices go up, prices go up," said Kelli Early, a UF psychology major. "Would it change my drinking habits? Hell no."