The hop harvest season is in full swing. It’s an exciting time of year for brewers. I just got an announcement from Coleman Agriculture. Oregon’s largest hop grower with four different hop farms and harvest locations across the Willamette Valley is encouraging craft brewers to hit the farms to pick whole cones for fresh hop beers. Here’s how fresh hop harvesting works at Coleman’s:
- Fresh hop harvest typically takes place in the cool mornings when hop bines, which average 18 ft in height, are cut down and placed on a truck bed.
- A picking machine then strips the hops from the bine, and stems are then separated from the cones. The cones are what are used in the brewing process.
- Brewers come directly to the farm and fill up cloth bags with fresh, pre-kilned hop cones, which are then taken directly back to the brewery and used within 24 hours.
- Fifteen (15) different varieties of hops are available for fresh hopping at Coleman this year. Check them out right here!
Sounds awesome, but how will the hop harvest fare this year? Well, we haven’t really heard any August reports yet from hop farmers in the Pacific Northwest. In early July, Yakima Chief Hops noted it was looking like an “average” or “normal” crop for the 2022 season, but “the cold spring weather, the late plantings, the big wind storms, and rain storms have really knocked back the baby crop quite a bit,” said Joe Catron, experimental hop manager with Yakima Chief Hops, in this report (also below). We’ll keep you updated as the PNW crop reports start to come in, but an interesting German hop craft report just hit our collective inbox. Things are not looking so good in Europe.
As has been reported throughout the summer, drought and heat wave has taken a toll on Europe, and that includes hop farms. The German crop, one of the most important in the world, is estimated to be down by 18 percent vs. a normal crop and down by 20.4 percent compared to the 2021 crop, which yielded 47.862 tonnes. From the August 2022 report from BarthHaas:
Particularly the early maturing varieties (Hallertau Mittelfrüh, Northern Brewer, Hall. Tradition, Perle) are affected and will yield poorly. Rainfalls towards the end of August are giving hope for the later maturing varieties that still have time to recover. Early alpha acid screening indicates, as can be expected, that alpha acid levels will also be below their respective long-term average.
According to the BarthHaas report, other European growing areas have seen similar conditions, and crop expectations are a mixed bag compared to 2021. For example, after a record crop in 2021, the Czech Republic is in store for a very poor crop this year.
What does this all mean for American craft brewers? For starters, definitely more expensive hops from Europe.
What all of this means for the markets is very hard to gauge. There is certainly supply from previous crops that will help to mitigate the shortfall, but these inventories are not necessarily of the varieties that are most needed…
Overall, we believe there is enough supply available to satisfy demand, but it will require the cooperation and flexibility from brewers with regards to crop year and varieties. The 2022 crop will also present an opportunity to make corrections to over-contracted forward positions. Finding the right price point for every variety in the spot market will prove tricky in view of a short crop 2022 in combination with inventories from previous crops at very variable levels.
What is certain is that forward prices will be higher than in the past. Growers are facing significant cost increases, much higher than general inflation, and will not be able to operate at historic price levels. We also encourage brewers to embrace modern varieties that are better suited to the changing climate and provide more stable yields than the well-known workhorses of the past.
Growing hops is not an easy career or business. We highly suggest you learn more about the industry by reading these important features:
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