Midwest Rains could Raise Beer Prices

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RANCHO CORDOVA-

Heavy rains in places like North Dakota and Montana have hammered barley crops, which could lead to an increase in the price of beer.

After falling in love with beer at age 7 (seriously), when he first sipped the stuff during a family trip to Denmark, David Mathis has made his passion his business.

And beer lovers are drinking it up at his brewery, American River Brewing Company.

"This particular beer is very smooth.  It has a very creamy texture to it and it has that maltier base," Rhonda Becker said as she described her tall glass of Fire Break Red Ale.

That malt, a key ingredient in Mathis' quest for the perfect pint, could be in jeopardy next year.

"Malt really kind of gives you your sugar base. It's what alcohol is created from," Mathis said.

Much of Mathis' malt barley comes from fields in Montana and North Dakota that have been soaked with too much rain in 2014.

It has caused the kind of early germination that could ruin beer, shrink quality supplies and force up cost for what remains.

Some of the worst-hit fields have experienced 50 percent germination.

Normally the quality cut-off for beer juggernaut Anheuser-Busch is two percent.

But Mathis has a plan to deal with any supply squeeze.

"We start looking at Canada. We start looking at Australia. We start looking at Europe," he said.

He's committed to searching the world to serve Sacramento the best at a reasonable price.

Though Mathis had to increase his prices for the first time this year, he only raised them the eight percent he faced on regular materials, nothing more.

He wants to make sure beer lovers don't go into debt for what he sees as a deserved enjoyment.

"Beer should be affordable," he said.

Craft beers can already run  $2 to $3 more than more commercial varieties.

Even if American River's prices have to rise some more to accommodate the search for malt, customers say they'll still be tipping up their glasses.

"I think it's well worth the trade -off for what you get in the pleasure of the beer experience," said Becker.