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Monday musing: 10 tons of hops – How much beer?

Hops ready to go to workHow much beer will those 10 tons of hops Boston Beer is selling to small breweries make?

Left to their own devices, these hops might provide proper bitterness, flavor and aroma for 40,000 barrels (31 gallons to a barrel) of craft beer. However most of the East Kent Goldings or Tettnang Tettnanger the brewer of Samuel Adams beer is offering for sale will end up part of recipes that include other hops, so their influence will reach, what to you think? Two, three times more?

Forty thousand barrels is a pretty impressive number, although the estimate could be high. If you want simple math, Boston Beer uses one pound of hops per barrel for its Boston Lager, so that’s 20,000 barrels for 20,000 pounds. But Boston Lager is hoppier than a Weiss beer you might brew with the Tettanger and these EK Goldings have a higher percentage of alpha acids (more bittering punch) than the hops in Boston Lager.

So let’s fantasize about 40,00 barrels. That’s pretty much what Dogfish Head Craft Brewery made that in 2006. Oops, that might not be the best example. Pretty sure Dogfish Head needs more than 10 tons of hops to make 40,000 barrels.

More impressive is that it would equal the production of all these breweries combined in 2006: Brewery Ommegang, Allagash, Three Floyds, Weyerbacher, Founders, Green Flash, Live Oak, Midnight Sun, AleSmith, Jolly Pumpkin, Atlanta, Alpine and Surly. Most of these breweries grew in 2007, but that would have been a lot harder given the current hop situation.

Still if you really need a number to look at you could easily calculate how “kilograms of alpha” (that’s the phrase some mega-brewers use) these hops will provide. The Tettnangers have already been measured at 4.2% alpha acids, the Goldings will likely be 6%.

One opinion, though. These hops deserve to be talked about using adjectives, not numbers.

6 Responses to Monday musing: 10 tons of hops – How much beer?

  1. SteveH February 18, 2008 at 9:33 am #

    Here’s a question that crossed my mind, for what did BBC have those hops earmarked before they decided to sell them off? Is the BBC production going to drop, is there a Sam Adams beer that isn’t going to see the light of the tavern, were these surplus hops – destined for the dumpster?

    Just wondering… and how many other bigger brewers might have a surplus to share?

  2. Swordboarder February 18, 2008 at 10:47 am #

    Overcontracting is fairly standard, especially for larger craft brewers expecting significant growth. Usually it’s not a big deal, because one can always use them for a little while into the next year.

    As for who has hops? When AB grows 2 million barrels in 2006, they must to have some reserves that are significant to the craft sector. But they probably aren’t willing to share, especially when they’re the ones buying the hops at higher prices anyway and driving the price up.

  3. Jeff Alworth February 18, 2008 at 11:59 am #

    For reference, those 40,000 barrels would make a brewery the 35th-largest in the country, between Abita and Schnell. In other words, that’s production of a large craft brewery’s annual production; it ain’t chicken feed.

  4. Jeff Alworth February 18, 2008 at 12:00 pm #

    Whoops, that was an old chart I just referred to. Point’s still the same…

  5. Stonch February 19, 2008 at 10:39 am #

    One of the comments above utterly puzzled me until I realised BBC didn’t stand for “British Broadcasting Corporation”.

  6. SteveH February 19, 2008 at 10:51 am #

    But it does, Stonch — just not exclusively. You’d have been (pleasantly) surprised to visit the RAF in Chicago a few years back too — the Real Ale Festival!

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