The Boston Beer Company is sharing hops (again)1, this time some of those that many brewers, and drinkers, are absolutely crying for — Citra and Simcoe. And they are selling them at their cost.
You can read about it at the Samuel Adams website, but you need to be an brewery operator to buy the hops.
Three quick thoughts:
– This is quite generous.
– They can do this because the forward contract for hops, something any size brewery can do.
– This does not guarantee there will be “plenty” of Simcoe, Citra and Ahtanum (the other hop for sale, and like Simcoe one of five hops in Latitude 48 IPA) after the 2012 harvest. But it likely means those want to contract for them will be able to.
These are strange hop times. There’s a glut of “alpha” available, meaning those only interested in hops for bittering purposes (even though may be very low, as in less than 8 IBU) can pick it up cheap. But the exotic varieties are in short supply.
For instance, it is nearly impossible to find Riwaka from New Zealand. Doug Donelan, New Zealand Hops spokesman explained when in an email: “Riwaka is a high demand variety with limited volume currently in production we need to rationalise distibution to ensure current users aren’t disadvantaged while trying to expand acreage. The US is only a small market for Riwaka with only one brewer currently using any significant volume. Existing users will continue to be supplied we are just limiting our expansion for the time being.”
He pointed to the importance of planning ahead. Contracting. A brewery doesn’t have to be as big as Boston Beer to do that.
“We grew 90 (metric tons) in 2012 all of which was forward sold so brewers attempting to buy high demand hops on spot markets need to re-think their purchasing strategy. Nelson Sauvin has been in volume growth for the past few years and will continue for the forseeable future,” he wrote. “Hops aren’t something you just turn a tap on with. We grow a wide mix of varieties so expansion needs to managed due to several factors. In time we will increase acreage of several high demand varieties but this also needs to be balanced with other contracaual commitments and release of newer types as well.”
1 Boston Beer also shared hops during the 2008 “hop crisis.” The hops were Hallertau Mittelfrüh and Golding, because Boston Beer used almost exclusively continental and UK hops at the time. BBC founder Jim Koch quite candidly admitted he didn’t care for American hops. He’s come around.