Gas price increases I can live with (reluctantly), but I admit to a bit of panic at news that the price of beer may be on the way up, too. According to the Arizona Republic, a shortage of hops and barley have taken the fizz out of the beer industry, falling especially hard on the micro-breweries that don't hold long-term contracts with supplies.

The shortage is, surprisingly, an offshoot of the gas crisis. As the move to convert the nation to bio-fuels gained traction, many farmers were attracted to the high prices paid for the corn used to make ethanol. This led to the conversion of hops and barley fields to corn, resulting in a short crop of suds ingredients. This year, brewers are looking at a 10-15% shortfall, which is squeezing prices and may leave some smaller producers without.

Brewers of beers such as India Pale Ale, that use a lot of hops, may be forced to look for substitutes or raise prices. Since these beers are most popular with drinkers with discriminating palates, sacrificing quality doesn't seem like an avenue to success.

I'm stocking up on my Sam Adams lager, just in case. There are some sacrifices just too great to consider.

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