May 12, 2014
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Ah, supply and demand. With America's appetite for non-watery beers on the rise — no, I'm not talking about you, weird tequila-flavored beer — the price of aroma hops has doubled in the past year, according to a Financial Times report. And as Matthew Yglesias notes over at Vox, the explosive growth of craft breweries is largely driving that trend.

But there are a few more factors at play worth spotlighting.

For one, commercial hops are predominantly grown in only a few regions — Germany and the Pacific Northwest, for the most part — so they're susceptible to weather-related shortages. For instance, bad weather in 2007 and 2008 wiped out European crops and caused a major global shortage, and thus a price spike.

Shifting taste trends have also required growers to basically start their crops from scratch, planting new strains to meet the current demand. With pungent IPAs all the rage lately, growers had to replace varieties that once were in vogue with, say, the Centennial hops used in some of the best beers on the planet. Meaning, it's not just that craft breweries are opening too fast for hop growers to keep pace, but also that the hops brewers crave have been relatively scarce. It doesn't help that aroma hops are more fickle, and harder to grow, than the bittering hops they're replacing.

Add to that the rapid growth in D.I.Y. brewing — homebrew shop sales on average leapt 26 percent in 2012 — and you have a recipe for a major price spike. A delicious, hoppy price spike. Jon Terbush

This just in
12:23 p.m. ET

A southbound Amtrak train derailed Monday morning just north of Montpelier, Vermont, WPTZ reports. First responders said that two train cars, the engine and the conductor's car, went over an embankment; the conductor was injured but not severely. Four people in total were reportedly injured, and no fatalities have been reported so far. The train, which belonged to Amtrak's daily Vermonter line, was en route from St. Albans, Vermont, to Washington, D.C.

The accident is the second major incident for Amtrak this year. In May, seven people died and over 50 were injured when an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia. Jeva Lange

12:19 p.m. ET

Next time you accidentally frequent a cash-only bar, you better think twice about settling for the nearest ATM. The average fee for using an out-of-network ATM is now a record-high $4.52, according to a Bankrate survey released Monday. If you live in a city like New York or Atlanta, average fees top $5, and you might wind up forking over as much as $8 in some cases.

The new average is a 21 percent spike from five years ago, The Wall Street Journal reports, chalking it up to a combination of pressure on banks to lower other fees and a sizable decrease in ATM withdrawal popularity.

U.S. banks don't disclose how much they earn in non-customer ATM fees, but overall, they've collectively brought in less money from all fees in recent years.

San Francisco boasts some of the lowest ATM fees out of the cities surveyed — $3.85 on average — but when you weigh that against the city's exorbitant housing market, it's a safe bet you're better off staying put. Julie Kliegman

2016 election
11:23 a.m. ET
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Jeb Bush is polling at 4 percent among Republican voters, according to the latest survey from Pew. While his handlers say that the campaign is built for the long haul, and political scientists will tell you that the laws of political gravity will ultimately drag down renegade candidates like Donald Trump, we've also seen how low poll numbers sparked a death spiral in dried-up funds and plummeting enthusiasm for the likes of Scott Walker and Rick Perry.

So a rattled Bush campaign is reportedly contemplating bringing out a big gun to woo disaffected conservative voters: George W. Bush, who is still popular with the party's base, even as he remains a divisive figure with the voting public at large. The New York Times reports that the decision to campaign with the former president is "an agonizing one for the campaign":

While dispatching George Bush to a state like South Carolina could shore up his brother's standing with conservatives, and remind voters there of a political family they still admire, it could also underscore the impression that Jeb Bush is simply a legacy candidate at a time when voters are itching for change.

What is more, given the former president's unpopularity among many in the broader electorate, joint appearances by the brothers could provide irresistible footage for Democratic attacks against Jeb Bush if he wins the Republican nomination. The continued instability in the Middle East, in particular, could remind voters of George Bush's decision to invade Iraq and make joint images of the Bush brothers potent fodder for the opposition. [The New York Times]

Then again, if Jeb Bush were to cling more tightly to his brother, he couldn't do worse than his competitors, who for the most part have embraced George W. Bush's legacy on issues of national security and taxes. Appearing with the former president on stage would just make the connection explicit. Ryu Spaeth

11:17 a.m. ET

The Transformers franchise has made clear it's determined to solider on without Shia LaBeouf, even as Age of Extinction, its fourth installment, tanked in the U.S. In case you're still jonesin' for some live-action machinery mayhem, there are apparently four more films in the works, Entertainment Weekly reports.

"Stay tuned, Transformers 5 is on its way, and 6 and 7 and 8," Hasbro president Stephen Davis said, adding that the toy company recently joined Paramount, franchise director Michael Bay, and others in plotting out a 10-year trajectory for the series.

Bay actually hasn't confirmed he'll direct the Mark Wahlberg-starring fifth installment, set to shoot in early 2016. But if three more movies really do see the light of day afterward, that means Transformers has ample opportunity to rack up some more hard-earned Razzies. Julie Kliegman

Supreme Court
10:36 a.m. ET

Analysis of Supreme Court justices' voting habits from FiveThirtyEight finds that the older a SCOTUS judge becomes, the further to the left his or her voting record will drift:


This is especially the case for justices nominated by Republican presidents: While Democratic nominees become more liberal as well, the transformation is more significant for GOP picks. The trend holds true for the current justices, though in his short tenure, Justice Samuel Alito has actually moved slightly to the right.

As for why this happens, FiveThirtyEight posits no less than seven theories, the most convincing of which may be research that suggests (contrary to popular wisdom) that it's fairly common for people to become less strictly conservative with age. Bonnie Kristian

I'll drink to that
10:22 a.m. ET
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A bipartisan group of senators and representatives have partnered to introduce the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (S.1562) to simplify and lower taxes and regulations on the production of beer and other alcoholic beverages in America.

The bill would reduce excise taxes from $7 to $3.50 per barrel on the first 60,000 barrels of beers from the smallest breweries, and reduce it from $18 to $16 for the first 6 million barrels from bigger outfits. Other proposed changes include expanding the list of allowable ingredients in hard cider and making it easier for breweries to collaborate without paying extra taxes. Home hobby distillation, which is currently subject to a dubious legal situation, would also be decriminalized on a small scale should the bill pass.

Not surprisingly, the craft brewing industry is supportive of the legislation. This "could drive the industry to greater heights," said Wisconsin brewer Fish Hamilton. "Really, this is something that the cost is minimal, the benefit is substantial and, again, I think it is something that has long been needed." Bonnie Kristian

This just in
10:03 a.m. ET

A missing cargo ship carrying 33 crewmen reportedly sunk during Hurricane Joaquin, NBC News reports. El Faro, which vanished Thursday in the Bermuda Triangle, had 28 Americans on board.

A 225-square-mile debris field was discovered over the weekend, including a life ring from El Faro, but no lifeboats have been found. The ship was expected to have been facing 20- to 30-foot waves; a distress call indicated that the ship had lost power and was taking on water. The 735-foot cargo ship was en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico, from Jacksonville, Florida, when it lost contact during the height of the hurricane. Jeva Lange

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