Climate Change Threatens Montana Barley Farmers, and Possibly Your Beer

"Warmer and more unpredictable weather has made it ever more challenging to grow malt barley, a crop that must meet exacting standards before it can be brewed into beer."

"The heat last summer in Montana was brutal and unprecedented. Dry winds fanned wildfires across one million acres, ravaging grasslands in the eastern part of the state and scorching the timbered mountains west of the continental divide. In the tiny town of Power, which sits in the foothills of the Rockies, smack in the middle of the state’s grain belt, the smoke wasn’t as bad as elsewhere. But the relentless heat and lack of rain posed a serious threat to the area. This “flash drought,” as it became known, was devastating the crop that has driven the local economy for three generations: malt barley.

At the height of a northern summer, the sky lightens before 5 a.m. and doesn’t get dark until past 10 at night. That makes for a long day if you’re up at dawn to work in the fields. So by the afternoon on one scorching late-July day, the most efficient way for a reporter to meet Power’s barley farmers was to head over to Les’ Bar. Drinking beer in the dimly lit tavern didn’t just provide cool relief to the barley growers. The malt-barley brews provided a stark reminder of why they worked so hard in such arduous conditions. "

Ari LeVaux reports for FERN and the Weather Channel December 13, 2017, with photography by Tony Bynum and Louise Johns.

Source: FERN/Weather Channel, 01/11/2018