Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Gheorghe vs. The Price of Oil

Everyone's talking about it, so this is nothing revelatory. But Gheorghe needs to address the problem and see what can be done.

Prices of this all-important liquid -- the nectar, the very lifeblood of American society, it seems -- continue to rise, thanks to global shortages of raw materials and the relationship of American big business with those parties in possession of this precious commodity. Somewhere in the mix, the independent businessperson and the American consumer get squeezed, and we're all starting to feel the pinch. You go to fuel up and glance at the price with a wince. You think about consuming less, then realize it's futile. We're all paying more during this worldwide crisis.

What am I talking about? Oil, of course. Well, what Dennis Boyd and his Mississippi ilk call "oil." Beer, dummy.

Quite obviously, the crisis at hand is the global hops shortage. In case you've been living under a rock and are blissfully unaware, a "perfect storm" led to a surplus of hops, prices dropping, and production being cut -- all just before a stretch of bad weather in Europe severely handicapped last year's hop acreage. So we've got a dire dearth of hops available for craft brewers, thanks to long-standing contract arrangements by the Big 3 (A-B, Miller, Coors) to get hops at cut-rates into the future. And that price bump gets passed along to you, the consumer.

On the upside, Bud, Miller, and Coors don't require an excess of hops for their "American light" style of swill. So you Silver Bullet homos connoisseurs are safe to keep sipping your suds at standard market price. But the hops situation is so bad (a 1994-5 Washington Bullets level of bad hops situation), the microbrewers are getting walloped, and inevitably, the price of consuming vast quantities of good beer has risen well beyond strained spousal relationships and the 36 waistline going the way of grunge music and the run & shoot offense. Dale's Pale Ale is $8.99 a six-pack in the local grocery store here in SEVA. I still contend that "I'm worth it" as I hoist a few sixers on the conveyor, but that's getting to be an even more difficult sell to those around me with every few cents the price goes up.

Here's what you can do:

Drink Globally, Think Locally. (Not as funny a bastardization as the Gogol Bordello song, but it works.) Start drinking the products of your local area. For Virginians, this includes Legend, St. George, and now Starr Hill breweries; microbreweries aren't just for the ski towns, hydroponic pot places, and jam band hubs any more, so most states have several. (Mississippi, as with just about everything else, I presume you may be screwed in this area.)

How does this help the hops shortage? It doesn't, directly, but supporting your local brewmeisters, just like your local farmers and vendors, will pay dividends for you the consumer in the end. Helping provide them relief from the hop-drought of '08 will be returned in spades, if not lower beer prices.

Invest in the hops market. Talk to your broker about putting your money in the hops industry. Then, when he stops laughing, have him buy you a $9 pint at Rock Bottom.

Stop drinking Coors Light. It's time to stick it to the man and tell those Holocaust Deniers in Golden, Colorado (a) that their cornering of the hops market doesn't sit well with you, and (b) that you're a good beer drinker with a discerning palate who expects more. Unless you're a 22-year-old blonde girl whose first name ends in "i" or especially "ee"; in that case, press on, dear girl. (Kudos to Coors on using Sam Elliott's voice-over on the commercials, though. Well played.)

Drink loads more pale ale and hop-heavy beers. Show the world that jump-starting production is worth paying more. Drink 12 at a time like it was your job. And do so near me, so by God, I won't have to be the drunkest lout at the party. Cripes, it's getting so that people don't get wasted at baby showers and kids' soccer games any more.

May you and yours see your way through these tough times safely.

25 comments:

TJ said...

"My God! The Dukes are going to corner the entire hops market!"

rob said...

you are doing god's work here, whitney. may your message carry over every (starr) hill and dale('s pale ale) in this great nation(al bohemian).

TJ said...

Never a dull moment with the Cowboys...Terrell Owens was excused from minicamp for "personal reasons", meaning he once again did not take enough pills to get the job done, and She Glenn has demanded her release.

TJ said...

Stephen A. and I have had our disagreements in the past, but he will stay on my good side as long as he keeps referring to Pau Gasol as "Pau Gasoft."

Whitney said...

He just called you T.J. Suckett.

Whitney said...

And Rob, you were my primary audience here. I can get by on stouts and lagers if need be, but I know the ales -- "the hoppier the better" -- are your thing.

TJ said...

That's actually pretty good Whit. Don't fire this batch of writers as quick as the last bunch.

rob said...

i'm quite thoroughly depressed by this turn of events, i'll be honest. one slight silver (amber?) lining is that i've been drinking more whiskey of late.

rob said...

the good people at lazy magnolia brewing co. would like a word with you, whit.

http://www.lazymagnolia.com/

now, off to find a distributor that carries their products.

Zoltan said...

The solution is to grown your own hops and home-brew your beer. A co-worker is doing this. Apparently hops is a vine and it's easy to grow.

rob said...

funny you mention that. my neighbor is doing exactly the same thing. probably to hide the marijuana plants in his yard.

Whitney said...

Sounds like at least one G:TB writer has a neighbor cooler than he is.

Whitney said...

Wow, this is a random analogy they drop. I think Bon himself would support the advancement of beer drinking, though.

From Brew Your Own magazine:

This hop shortage is going to cause a big storm in the brewing community. However, the dark clouds may have a silver lining. Sometimes tragedy spurs innovation. Did the rock band AC/DC give up when their singer Bon Scott died? Hell no, they found a new singer and recorded one of the classic rock albums of all time, “Back in Black.” So, in 2008, get ready to start from scratch and brew some great beers with the hops available. Because many classic hop varieties will be absent in 2008, style guidelines based on classic beer styles will be of less value when formulating recipes. Instead, you will need to use your taste buds, nose, imagination and brewing skills to get the best expression from the hops available. By intuition, trial and error, homebrewers will need to figure out which hops go best with the caramel flavors of a red ale, the roasty character in dark beers, the crispness of a nice lager or the spicy aspects of some Belgian brews.

A little artificially-imposed constraint can actually heighten artistic expression. Bach wrote some of the best music in history under the strict rules of the Baroque period. (Likewise, look at what AC/DC has done with only four chords.) You may be down to a handful of varieties in your freezer soon, but getting to know everything about them may lead you to formulate your best beer ever.

Mark said...

TJ and Stephen A's biggest HAVE had some big disagreements over the years but none of them compare to the Cheez Doodles vs. Cheez Balls argument of 2006.


That...was a doozy.

Greg said...

The Cheez Doodles are definitely crunchier, but the Cheez Balls fit in your mouth better.

TJ said...

I am so proud of Mark for spelling the name right.

Mark said...

Thanks TJ.

FWIW, I was always partial to the Cheez Balls b/c they were a little saltier and more flavorful.

rob said...

the people arguing against an nba conspiracy have some 'splainin' to do after that technical foul on doc rivers.

rob said...

mike breen at the break: "the lakers need to regroup"

you think?

TJ said...

Ray.

Ray.

Zoltan said...

It's belam out there.

Zoltan said...

And by "belam" I mean "bedlam."

Mark said...

Umm, so, should we expect to see Phil Jackson outside a strip mall complaining about Kobe at some point this summer?

I mean, Kobe aint Dirk but he's proven himself to be so far away from MJ during these Finals that I don't think anybody makes that comparison ever again. A later won championship or not...

Mark said...

I know tonight's game had a lot of "pouring it on" effect to it, but this game absolutely encapsulated the lack of heart that this Laker team had. What a pathetic bunch of foldable front runners....

Mark said...

Did anyone see Doc's kid next to him at the end of the game? He's supposed to be one of the best players in Central Florida, as a freshman, and he's bigger than Doc already.