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Goldilocks and hop acres – what is just right?

New trellis going in at Perrault Farms in the Yakima Valley
The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service last week released its forecast for acres of hops strung for harvest in the American Northwest. Lots of numbers and plenty of fun comparisons that illustrate how much has changed in five years or ten. The number of acres under wire is up, as expected, but maybe not as much as growers, literally from around the world, feared.

The USDA/NASS forecast is only for the states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, because until just a few years ago farmers in the rest of the country did not grow enough hops to bother tallying. That’s changed. Totaling up what’s going on elsewhere has been a challenge for Hop Growers of America, simply because there are so many small hop operations (often an acre or less, on an existing farm or literally in a large backyard). But if estimates are correct, farmers outside the Northwest will tend to about 7% of American hop acreage this year.

I’ve droned on here enough about how hard it is for the global hop market to find equilibrium. (And here and here at Beer Advocate.) Based upon inventory available after the 2016 harvest and projected beer production in 2017 it appears farmers could meet demand without planting any additional acre of hops in 2017.

So what does it mean that Northwest farmers planted about 3,300 additional acres in 2017 and growers elsewhere at least 1,000 more? That Citra will suddenly be easier to get and cheaper? Likely “no” on either count. That the next time you read a story about hop shortages inhibiting the growth of a particular brewery you should be skeptical? You bet. That there will be deals to be made for Cascade? Appears so. That farmers counting on higher prices will crash and burn? That’s the real concern. Because if they go out of business, or rip out hops to plant hazelnuts, then a few years down the road brewers will be facing a hop shortage. Yep, that whole equilibrium thing.

“You have to ask yourself, ‘Do I have the right acreage and the right varieties?'” Patrick Smith of Loftus Farms said in April at the Craft Brewers Conference. Vendors from Germany, the Czech Republic, New Zealand, Australia, England, and France all made it clear at CBC that what happens in the United States affects them as well — at home and in the states. This all provides an interesting backdrop to the upcoming International Brewers Symposium on Hop Flavor and Aroma in Beer (early registration ends tomorrow). I’ll be there in information accumulation mode and likely summarize some of what I learn in my Hop Queries newsletter (sign up at the bottom, if you haven’t already).

Meanwhile, to the numbers.

Northwest acreage grew from 50,857 to 54,135. Most of the growth is in Idaho, which boosted acreage from 5,648 to 7,169.

Top 5 varieties 2017
Cascade 7157 acres
Centennial 5534
Citra 5284
Simcoe 4498
Zeus* 3539

Same 5 varieties 2012
Cascade 3226
Centennial 1736
Citra 538
Simcoe 940
CTZ* ~5676

*Columbus, Tomahawk and Zeus are genetically identical and often sold as CTZ, but they grown under three different names. In 2017, production of Columbus and Tomahawk shrunk enough they are now simply listed with “other” (so CTZ is understated). The 2012 figure is a estimate because at the time Idaho did not publish figures for individual varieties.

Top 5 varieties 2007*
CTZ 8079
Willamette 6858
Galena 3030
Nugget 2768
Cascade 1303**

* Totals are for Washington only and Oregon because Idaho did not publish figure for individual varieties.
** Oregon did not provide a total for Cascade, which was combined with “other” and likely less than 70 acres.
Note: Washington farmers listed Centennial and Simcoe under “other” in 2007. They reported 253 acres of Centennial in 2008 and 129 of Simcoe.

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The Session #125: SMaSH beer

The Session
Host Mark Linder has announced the top for the 125th gathering of The Session will be simple and singular: SMaSH beers. For those of you who may not not know the term, SMaSH is code for single malt, single hop. I always though they should be call SHSAM, because a) I am inclined to put hops first, b) I might not be a great speller, and c) sounds like magic to me.

Mark offers plenty of options. Even though I’ll be in South Africa July 7, I plan to partcipate, so you should as well.

The announcement also gives me an opportunity to suggest you sign up for Hop Queries, my free monthly hop-focused newsletter. It will ship shortly after Homebrew Con, because I’ll be in both hop talking and hop information collecting mode in Minneapolis later this week.

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Pay no attention to the man with the big moustache

Jim Boyd, Roy FarmsI apologize, because what follows is strictly American hop industry inside stuff. But I’ve reached the hops section of Miracle Brew: Hops, Barley, Water, Yeast, and the Nature of Beer, which has left me a bit giddy.

In the introduction, Pete Brown writes, “I’ve made it very easy for you to dip in and read first about the ingredient that interests you the most, which is probably hops, but I wouldn’t recommend that.” So I started with barley, read about water, and now I’m surrounded by hops. And page 245 a bigger-than-life character is introduced. Pete never gets around to using his name, but industry types will recognize who it is immediately. And the whole exchange makes me laugh.

Excerpt from

If nobody adds the name in the comments I will in the next day or two.

While you are here, a reminder you might want to sign up for Hop Queries, a newsletter that should appear in your email box once a month. It will contain more useful information than the identity of Giant Moustache.

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Weekly beer links: International edition

MONDAY BEER AND WINE LINKS, MUSING, 05.22.17

Pay no attention to that elephant in the room. More long (and I dare I suggest passionate?) screeds this past week related to AB InBev and buyouts in general. But there is a whole world of beer out there . . .

RUSSIA

Burnt by the sun.
This is from last summer, but it just hit my radar. “Defying centuries of Christianisation, the Chuvash are still largely a pagan people with colourful rituals and a pantheon of gods that make ancient Greece look like a spiritual backwater.” And they grow hops. Not like in the 1980s, but there is a plan. [Via Calvert Journal]

SOUTH AFRICA

The true import of South African hops.
Yes, that is the elephant over there, but last week I suggested a conversation about South African hops should include South Africa and now somebody has. [Via All About Beer]

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Less is more: This is your brain on hops

Your brain on hops

Chatter about the increasing popularity of pilsner, maybe even pale lager, is pretty constant on Twitter, but got a little louder following a recent story in The Washington Post (“Make room, hoppy IPA. Pilsener is the buzzy new craft beer”). In it, Matt Brynildson makes it clear that Firestone Walker’s Pivo Pils is a hoptimized, Americanized version of a pale lager.

But time moves on and memories fade. After drinking fresh Pilseners on trips to Europe, Brynildson decided he wanted to bring one back to Southern California. That became Firestone’s Pivo Hoppy Pils, which uses German hops, malt and yeast, but adds dry-hopping with spicy, citrusy Saphir hops, a technique not used in the old country. “I put it under the nose of a German brewmaster, and they say, ‘This is nice, but this is not a Pilsener,'” he laughs. “Pivo is just too aromatic, too hop-aroma-forward for Europe.” It does well in hop-crazy America, though: Pivo won gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival every year from 2013 to 2015. For IPA lovers who are just moving into Pilseners, there’s something more recognizable from the level of hops, even if they don’t taste the same as the tropical hops in, say, Firestone’s Luponic Distortion IPA.

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