Have you noticed that the price of beer is going up?

The simple explanation is that supplies of hops and barley, two key ingredients in brew-making, are shrinking while demand for beer is increasing.

Bad harvests and low prices for these commodities bear some of the blame, but another major factor is the nation's poorly fashioned energy policy.

Thanks to government subsidies to promote ethanol production, more and more farmers are abandoning a variety of crops - including barley and hops - and switching to corn.

Not just the price of beer is at stake here. Surely you've also noticed the higher prices for a box of cereal and a gallon of milk.

Now all of this would not be so bad if corn-derived ethanol held any real promise. But, by some calculations, the cost of the fossil fuels burned to produce a gallon of ethanol are greater than any savings it provides.

Hardest hit by the hop and barley shortages are the craft brewers. Not only do they use more hops per batch than the big commercial brewers to flavor their beers, they do not have the buying power of Anheuser-Busch or Coors.

But even the big beer names are bound to feel the pinch eventually. That's when Joe Sixpacks everywhere will join the throng wondering if subsidizing corn crops as a source for alternative fuels is really worth it.