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In a Jam: Record Heat Causes Shortages, Driving Up Fruit Costs

Money doesn’t grow on trees, but fruit does—and yet, it can be a finite resource. For all the talk of how climate could affect malt and hops, fruit is another raw material of modern beer that’s vulnerable to weather, as well as to supply-chain issues.

Ben Keene Nov 8, 2021 - 11 min read

In a Jam: Record Heat Causes Shortages, Driving Up Fruit Costs Primary Image

Photo: Courtesy Pelican Brewing

When the second heat wave of summer hit the Northwest in August, Oregon Governor Kate Brown declared a 10-day state of emergency. Temperatures exceeded 100°F (38°C) for several consecutive days; they broke the records, if an earlier stretch of abnormally hot weather hadn’t already shattered them in late June. On June 28, Portland hit 116°F (47°C), melting power cables, while Seattle reached 108°F (42°C). Parts of Interstate 5, the highway linking the two cities, buckled in the heat.

Meanwhile, the heat dome that settled over the Pacific Northwest wreaked havoc on the region’s many orchards, farms, and vineyards.

In short, a scorching summer is anything but good news for fans of berries and cherries. It’s also a potential complication for breweries that have one or more fruited beers in their portfolio and have had more challenges than usual this year in sourcing their desired fruits.

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Author of The Great Northeast Brewery Tour, a contributor to The Oxford Companion to Beer, and former editor of BeerAdvocate, Ben Keene has judged beer competitions across the US and has spoken at industry conferences and conventions. He lives in Seattle.