The United States’ hop growers did their part in 2014 to keep up with the increased demand for hops used in craft beer. Growers produced more hops than any time in the past five years. Yields were down and prices continue to rise according to a new report from Hop Growers of America released during its annual conference in San Diego.
Although U.S. growers planted an additional 3,600 acres of hops in 2014, the yields dropped by 4.79 percent. An unseasonably hot July in the Pacific Northwest resulted in lighter cones and yields in some varieties that were down as much as 40 percent, said Douglas MacKinnon, CEO of 47 Hops, an international hops brokerage firm in Yakima, Wash.
“In 2015, there’s no margin for error for hops growers,” MacKinnon said. “The hop acreage increased by 10 percent in 2014, but the craft beer industry grew by 20 percent. Growers worldwide can’t plant hops fast enough to keep up with demand.”
Among the highlights of the report:
- The Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon and Idaho) harvested 98 percent of all commercially grown hops in the United States.
- The 38,011 acres planted in 2014 was the most since 2009 (39,726 acres). With an additional 5,000 acres set to come online in 2015, acreage is expected to surpass the all-time record of 40,898 acres of hops planted in 2008.
- Although alpha hop acreage continues to come out at a record pace, CTZ continues to be the king of the U.S. hop varieties, making up 23 percent of the hops planted. Cascade was second at 16.6 percent.
- Today, Germany is the world’s top alpha producer, owning 44 percent of the market. The U.S. is second at 39 percent. It was less than a decade ago when those roles were reversed.
- The top countries from which the U.S. imported hops: Germany, United Kingdom and Australia.
MacKinnon said the majority of the 2015 hop crop has already been contracted by merchants for their brewery customers. Any brewers trying to purchase hops for 2015 risk the whims of the spot market. The additional hop acreage being planted for 2015 will help meet demand, but the crop is always dependent upon the weather and myriad other factors before it’s available.
“At the end of the day, agriculture is never a guaranteed bet, even though it may be more stable now than ever in history,” said MacKinnon, the former executive director of Hop Growers of America. “Growers are at the mercy of Mother Nature. A freak hailstorm in June and we could be in a short situation overnight.”