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Just in case Florida isn’t the next hop powerhouse

Conveniently enough yesterday @BeerAdvocate tweeted to a link to a story I wrote for the magazine not quite two years ago. It began, “The American hop market seldom finds a comfortable equilibrium for very long, simply because as essential as hops are in brewing beer, they serve almost no other commercial purpose.”

Business was booming then and it is booming now. Last week I revisited one of the reasons why, and Bryan Roth is posting about hops every day this week. In addition, last week Good Beer Hunting took notice of how acreage outside the Northwest is growing and All About Beer had a story about an attempt to grow hops in Florida.

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Not if an American brewer is adding the hops

Hallertau hop harvest

Reading this passage in “an alternative beer pilgrimage in Bavaria” I had to haul out my calculator (well, use the app on my phone), because nine million pints really does seem like a lot from one little patch of ground.

There are several moving parts, so I won’t share my math lest you can tell me what I did wrong. We are talking hectares (2.47 acres), metric tons (2,200 pounds), UK pints, hop varieties that yield different amounts per acre, and hop varieties with different percentages of alpha acids.

But it seems to me those would be nine million pretty un-hoppy pints. You’d definitely be at the left end of this chart showing the amount of iso-alpha acids if various beers (from Brauwelt, using numbers German hop broker Barth-Haas compiled about half a dozen years ago).

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Hops porn

See, Twitter is good for something.

From Oregon


From Washington

From Slovenia

From North Carolina

From Bohemia

From England

From New York

From Indiana

From Minnesota

From Idaho

Hop harvest has begun, and talk of a ‘hops bubble’

Hop farmers haven’t started harvesting in the American Northwest, various parts of Germany, or the Czech Repubic, where most of the world’s hops are grown, but they have some places. Thus this picture from Indiana.

So let’s begin this hops link-o-rama with a story from Indiana and go from there.

Indiana Hops Farmers Pin Financial Hopes To Craft Beer Trend
“Small farms are not gonna be able to make it on corn and soybeans,” said Purdue horticulture professor Lori Hoagland, who advises hops farmers for the school extension. “So diversifying into some of these more niche crops is gonna be important.”

As Michigan adds hop acreage, concerns of oversupply emerge
How fast is this happening? There’s already talk of a Hops Bubble™. In Michigan, acreage is growing so fast the state may soon have more land devote to hops than countries such as Belgium and New Zealand. And Brian Tennis, I think the first guy in the state to establish a commercial hop farm, suggests some caution may be in order. “Hops are still risky. It’s an agricultural crop and it depends on what the price is at,” he told MiBiz. And Rob Sirrine of the Michigan State University Extension says this “will serve as a telling year” for the state’s processing infrastructure.

Despite craft beer boom, not much hoppin’ on Illinois farms
“In Illinois, unlike in neighboring Michigan, there’s no state university-coordinated effort among brewers and growers to break down potential barriers to business. There’s no research underway to determine the best varieties for Illinois farmers to grow that might give them a competitive edge.”

German hop growers target the massive Chinese beer market
Beer production and consumption in China continues to grow, but hop acreage is shrinking. Seems to be an opportunity here.

Craft beer craze drives demand for hops in Australia
Craft beer boom brews expansion for Australian hop farmers in Tasmania, Victoria
Harvest down under wrapped up months ago. There’s more demand for hops both within the country and from elsewhere, Hop Products Australia is increasing its hop fields by half.

Hops take off in Ontario thanks to booming craft beer market
There are 80 hop yards in Ontario. Four years ago there were only five.

Pacific Northwest crop update
An optimistic report from YCHHOPS.

The Most Popular Beer Hops of July 2016
From hoplist and based on one set of criteria, but you will recognize the names.

Hops: A hundred year trend reversed

Hops usage (alpha acids per hectoliter)

This chart is actually one that Alex Barth, president of John I. Haas, showed at the 2015 American Hop Convention. It’s relevant right now because today the Barth-Haas Group released its annual hop report. And it confirms the projection Alex Haas made 18 months ago.

The chart tracks hop usage since 1971. One hundred years ago brewers used the equivalent of 12.6 grams of alpha acids per hectoliter (26.4 gallons or 85% of a barrel. The had fallen to 9.1 grams in 1971 and continued to drop regularly until it was just over 4 grams in 2011. It ticked up to 4.5 grams in 2011 and will reach 5.4 this year.

This doesn’t mean that beers are getting more bitter. It means that brewers are using hop differently and using more of them.

Because of heightened interest in hops much of what is in the report has already been reported. The archives are invaluable if you want to look up how much Strisselspalt the French grew 20 years ago, or if the hop called Record (which is in this year’s Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest) was ever very popular, or what spot prices were in any particular year.

This year’s report begins with a discussion of “How hops have changed the world of beer, and vice versa…”

The central task of hop research used to be “quite simple.” The breeding of new hop varieties focused on yield, alpha acid content and resistance to diseases and pests. This met most of the requirements of both the hop and brewing industry. When, after many years, a new hop variety was finally licensed, the brewing industry accepted it and brewed its beers with it – mostly with success. This went on for years – until a completely new generation of brewers grew up in the United States. More and more breweries were built and more and more people took an interest in brewing beer – not only on a small scale for their own consumption, but also on a large scale for sale to others. Suddenly, hop aroma acquired a totally new standing. The craft brewers had taken a fancy to the aroma varieties in particular. Gradually, they developed their own ideas, philosophies, techniques and innovations with regard to brewing which have meanwhile found their way into the world at large. … At the same time, there arose a growing desire for unusual hop aromas, and within a relatively short period of time new hop varieties with a wide range of flavours appeared.”

That’s why, by their count, in 2012 the number of hop varieties worldwide stood at 180; today there are 250 varieties. That doesn’t include hops been reconsidered when they grow in different regions. For instance, Gorst Valley Hops has renamed Chinook, calling it Skyrocket, because in Wisconsin the hop is less piney and resinous and smells more tropical. And in New Zealand the new name for Cascade is “Taiheke.”

Of course, the most popular varieties are driving growth.

Variety20112015Growth
Cascade1,0022,748174%
Centennial3081,807487%
Simcoe2001,338569%
Citra971,2111148%
Amarillo185683269%
Crystal54245354%

The acreage here is measured in hectares (I know, maybe it should be called hectarage), and there are 2.47 acres to a hectare. A couple of varieties not in the chart because acreage was not reported in 2011: Mosaic 36 ha in 2012 and 728 in 2015; and El Dorado 39 in 2013 and 181 in 2015.

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