Saturday, October 27, 2007

Ethanol vs. Joe Sixpack

For years Republicans and Democrats who wanted to become president have been forced to go to Iowa to swear allegiance to the corn industry. John McCain says that he has a glass of ethanol with breakfast each morning.

Free marketeers have looked for some political counterweight -- some way to ensure that politicians lose more than they gain from the pandering. It may have arrived:

Fans of Snipes Mountain Brewery's cloudy Hefeweizen relish the subtle wheat flavor of the bright, summery brew, and like beer drinkers everywhere, they know when their favorite brew tastes a little too hoppy or bitter.

Connoisseurs could be in for a surprise this year, and they may not be alone.

Small brewers from Australia to Oregon face the daunting prospect of tweaking their recipes or experimenting less with new brews thanks to a worldwide shortage of one key beer ingredient and rising prices for others.

Oh, and one other thing: Beer prices are likely to climb. How high is anybody's guess. Craft brewers don't have the means to hedge against rising prices, like their industrial rivals.

"I'm guessing, at a minimum, at least a 10 per cent jump in beer prices for the average consumer before the end of the year," said Terry Butler, brewmaster at central Washington's Snipes Mountain...

Now the bright spot in the brewing industry is facing mounting costs on nearly every front. Fuel, aluminum and glass prices have been going up quickly over a period of several years. Barley and wheat prices have skyrocketed as more farmers plant corn to meet increasing demand for ethanol, while others plant feed crops to replace acres lost to corn.

Can we get the Beer Institute to run television ads apologizing to beer drinkers for the increased price of their favorite brew -- and telling them to call their congressmen?

Make mine an IPA, thanks.

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