The latest must-have threatened by climate change: quality Belgian beer

Adapt or die.
Adapt or die.
Image: Reuters/Francois Lenoir
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A leading Belgian brewery has had to temporarily halt production—and it’s blaming climate change.

The Cantillon craft brewery is known for making Lambic beers—a sour, flat beer that can only be brewed in Brussels. While breweries typically have a great deal of control on the beer-making process, Lambic brewing is far less scientific. Brewers at Cantillon use open vats to expose their mixture to local airborne bacteria and yeast, in sharp contrast to modern methods that ensure the mixture is closed to prevent any exposure to the air.

Jean Van Roy, the artisan brewer at Cantillon, told AFP: “We had to pour away three brews for today, Thursday, and next Monday because the nighttime temperatures are currently at between 10-15ºC (50-59ºF), which is far too warm.”

Van Roy’s beer is spontaneously fermented in the open air and usually allowed to cool from the end of October. This process can only take place in the winter, but the brewing period is getting shorter every year as a result of warming temperatures. If the beer isn’t cooled quickly enough, brewers end up getting the wrong mix of bacteria and yeast. The beer not only loses its distinct sour taste—it’s not even drinkable.

Van Roy is trying desperately to adapt, but fears climate change may eventually end his business. So, add quality Belgian beer to a list of things being threatened by climate change, including your morning coffee, sushi, and the wine industry.

Though the International Organization of Vine and Wine is now confident winemakers will survive changes caused by climate change as many have already switched to earlier harvesting, changed their grape variety, or adopted new wine-making processes.

But will beer purists like Van Roy be able to adapt?