The shortage -- caused by a dwindling number of hop growers worldwide, and exacerbated by a Yakima, Washington, warehouse fire -- has forced [Pacific Coast Brewing's Donald] Gortemiller to use fewer and different hops than before, changing the flavor of his beer. He's also resorted to beer hacks, like "dry hopping," in which the hops are added late to the mix, consuming fewer hops and yielding a more consistent flavor.
Geistbear sent a pointer to an article from his Geistbear Brewing Blog. In "It's the end of the beers as we know it and I feel fine" he writes:
Economic theory states that one of the possible reactions to scarcity is substitution. The current growth rates of 10% per year of craft brewing I don't see demand subsiding anytime time soon. So there will have to be another answer found and I think it's down the road of substitution. American brewers have proven if they can do anything it is innovate.
Also on Twitter, Brookston advises us to "Seek out Moonlight Brewing's "Working For Tips," a beer Brian Hunt made with only Redwood tip, and NO hops!" I found no info on this new beer on the Moonlight Brewing website. BeerAdvocate classifies Working for Tips as a "Scottish Gruit / Ancient Herbed Ale" and lists a number of beers of this style.
We will likely be seeing a growing number of these alternative ingredient beers. American brewers have long shown they are willing to experiment with new (or old and forgotten) ingredients. However such experimentation is pointless unless American consumers are willing to try results. Are you stuck on your current favorites, or are you willing to try something new?
More commentary on the Wired story:
Alan at A Good Beer Blog:
Wired's Good Summary Of Price Inputs Got Me Thinking
Stan at Appellation Beer:
Monday musing: The bright side of the hops shortage
Update, May 14: Knut Albert has posted about some very non-traditional ingredients.