Top Menu

How expensive are hops? They’re on eBay

Samuel Adams hops sampleWe should have seen this coming. The “hops crisis” has reached the point that hops are up for sale on eBay.

Forget the bottles of Stone Epic Vertical and Lost Abbey Angel’s Share. Now you can buy the pure stuff. Just rip open the package and stick your nose in (somewhat like the drawing on the package).

Dump the hops into your beer. OK, that might not be such a good idea.

Granted, these promotional packages from Boston Beer won’t take you far. One weighs about 4 grams (and that includes the packaging). But think of it like gold &#151 the price is only going up.

Don Russell (Joe Sixpack) had a terrific column last week in which Dan Weirback of Weyerbacher Brewing in Pennsylvania talked specifically about how much more he is paying for hops and what it means for prices. Double Simcoe IPA (the No. 2 rated beer in the NY Times “extreme” tasting) will cost $15-$18 per case more.

It’s scary out there right now.

I got a look at latest prices on a one-page price sheet from GW Kent (dated Dec. 20) when I stopped in at a local brewery. A 44-pound box of German Hallertau Select is selling for $440, or $11 a pound. Not bad, until you notice the alpha acids on this delicate hop are just 1.5%. That’s not going to add much bitterness.

This provides a graphic illustration that it’s really a worldwide alpha shortage driving up hop prices. Not alpha that is going into niche beers like Double Imperial IPAs but into the millions of gallons of industrial pale lagers with just enough bitterness to balance any malt sweetness.

The giant brewing companies making those beers shop for “kilograms of alpha.” In November the going price was about 600 euros per kg of alpha. If my math is correct, the prices on this sheet are more like 870 euros per kg. Doesn’t seem we’re headed in the right direction.

Hallertau Mittelfrueh (which is in the Samuel Adams package) costs $1,144 for a 44-pound box (4.5% alpha), while Hallertau Tradition has a little more pop (5.5% alpha) and costs $1,276.

Disclaimer: I received one of these packages in a press kit. Words on the back support the notion “Hops are to beer what grapes are to wine,” discuss the hopping levels of Boston Lager versus industrial beers and promote “noble” hops.

But I particularly like a warning on the front that hops “are NOT intended for ingestion. So please smell, do not eat.”

The package is going on a shelf with Daria’s collection of Prohibition-era hop boxes, many of which still contain hops about three quarters of a century old (none of which we are tempted to sample).

9 Responses to How expensive are hops? They’re on eBay

  1. Stephen Beaumont January 18, 2008 at 8:51 am #

    According to your price and my metric colculations, that little pack of hops is worth precisely $00.0002. Wonder what it’s going to ultimately fetch on eBay?

  2. Eric Trimmer January 18, 2008 at 9:49 am #

    I bid $1

  3. Keith Brainard January 18, 2008 at 10:25 am #

    They even have usable hops for sale on Ebay, too. A pound of Cascade pellets for $50. I got a pound of whole leaf Cascades for like $10 less than a year ago.

  4. Todd January 18, 2008 at 10:31 am #

    I just saw 1 oz. of hops for sale at $5 on ebay- that’s $90/#. How much $ should I charge for organic cascades? Organic nugget? Will this price drama not end until the next crop comes in?

  5. Rick Sellers January 18, 2008 at 11:20 am #

    Wow… I saw hops for trade (exchange for beer) on Craigslist. I saw the guy’s picture who wound up ‘winning’ that trade, the hops were a wonderful shade of yellowish brown…

    I wonder if I can sell futures for my three hop plants this year to homebrewers?

  6. Todd January 18, 2008 at 11:35 am #

    I’ll bet hop variety blending starts to be a trend. 3 plants here, 20 plants there, add the 10 plants from up the road, maybe a blend of #10 total. Stuff like that.

    I like the idea of hop futures, but will prices go up or down come Oct.?

  7. Stan Hieronymus January 18, 2008 at 11:43 am #

    Will prices go up or down come Oct.?

    Not long ago I would have bet down. Feeling less confident now.

  8. Swordboarder January 18, 2008 at 1:30 pm #

    Prices will remain up for the next year or two and drop back down, though not to their original levels.

    Unless of course Xanthohumol actually cures cancer. Then it’s brewers fighting for hops with the pharmaceutical companies.

  9. Lisa Morrison January 20, 2008 at 7:35 pm #

    I’ve been bittering my homebrew with my own blend of hops for years. Despite my best efforts to keep them separated, the Chinook and Nugget hops always grow together. I pluck them all and mix them up and call it my own proprietary blend of … (wait for it) … Chuggets! 🙂

    I would definitely consider sharing my Chuggets with a deserving brewer this year. All in the name of good beer, of course!

Powered by WordPress