Forget the Bubble, the Craft Beer Famine is Here!

Original photo courtesy of http://bitesnbrews.com/

Original photo courtesy of http://bitesnbrews.com/

WASHINGTON STATE HAS RUN OUT OF HOPS!!!!

EVERYBODY PANIC!!!11!!!!!1!!!

Okay, so maybe it’s not THAT bad, but a harsh economic reality has set in on the craft beer world, and it’s not the popping of the mythical sales “bubble” – it simple supply and demand.

In this case, the supply of aroma hops from Washington State has not been able to keep up with demand from brewers across the country. 

The math is rather simple – even though the supply of hops from Washington farmers has increased by 13 percent over the last year, the number of craft brewers in America has grown by roughly 25 percent over the past two years.

Add in the fact that hop-hogging IPA’s have now eclipsed seasonal beers as the most popular style in off-premise sales according to recent IRI Symphony Group Data, and you can start to see why the growers in the Evergreen State can’t quite keep up.  54.9 million pounds of hops is simply not enough to satisfy America’s craving for a bitter punch in the face!

According to the USDA, Washington grows around 79 percent of America’s hops, so if there’s a shortage there, there’s a shortage everywhere.

Worse yet, the demand is mainly rising for aroma hops, which are more fickle than the alpha hops used as a bittering agent in beer.

Washington State farmers plan to increase production, but aroma hops are more easily affected by temperature fluctuations and the other indignities our increasingly erratic environment might throw at them.  So planning to grow more and increasing the yield at harvest time aren’t exactly the same thing.

As is the case with supply and demand, expect to see an increase in hop prices (and perhaps eventually beer prices) until growers from other hop-friendly states to ramp up production and cash in on the craft beer craze for themselves.

Well everywhere except Colorado  – they’re busy with a different cash crop all their own. ;)

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Categories: Beer, News

Author:Jim

Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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8 Comments on “Forget the Bubble, the Craft Beer Famine is Here!”

  1. January 7, 2014 at 2:22 pm #

    I’ll have to pay more attention to my hop rhizomes this year (watering, feeding, pruning). My home brewed beer needs hops…I’m screwed.

    • January 7, 2014 at 2:23 pm #

      Yeah – the little guy ALWAYS suffers in the lean times!

  2. January 7, 2014 at 2:25 pm #

    “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Ale was being brewed long before hops became the primary bittering/aroma agent. Sounds like an opportunity to me.

    • January 7, 2014 at 2:27 pm #

      Imperial Stouts for everyone!!

    • January 7, 2014 at 2:40 pm #

      Pass the mugwort.

  3. January 7, 2014 at 2:29 pm #

    I recently bought a gift box of “ancient” Scottish ales as a Xmas gift to myself. There were 4 ales in the package, including Fruach–a heather ale purported to be in production since 2000BC–none were flavored w/ hops. One was rather bland, 2 were really good, 1 stunk. Not bad odds at all.

    • January 7, 2014 at 2:31 pm #

      Ive developed a taste for IPA’s (Sculpin and Union Jack in particular) but my heart still belongs to big sweet beers, like a wee heavy, imperial stout or the big Belgians. Kill the hopmonsters and I’d survive in style!

  4. Maine Hops!
    January 8, 2014 at 7:59 am #

    We got Maine growing again with farms like http://www.thehopyard.com!

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