With intrepid reporter Keith Gribbins live on the scene at Rogue Farms to document the 2016 hop harvest, we wanted to update you on the overall outlook for this year’s crop. Good news: With acreage up 17 percent in the Pacific Northwest and yields anticipated from average to exceptional, U.S. hop production expected to hit another record year reports the Hop Growers of America. This is doubly good news because last year we saw less-than ideal growing conditions in both the United States and in Europe. Non-contracted brewers were left wanting a handful of new, highly demanded aroma varieties despite an increase in overall U.S. production and a 10 percent increase of hops in storage.
Now, U.S. hop acreage is in its fifth consecutive year of growth, up another 17 percent in the Pacific Northwest and 18.5 percent nationally — home to 40 percent of the global hop supply. With the USDA estimating 13 million additional pounds of hops incoming, this would total a record 91.8 million pounds for Northwest producers who produce over 96 percent of the US crop, a 16 percent jump from 2015. According to the March USDA-NASS report, “many baby yards in Washington and Idaho are exceptional, with production between 50 and 100 percent of mature yields expected.”
According to USDA-NASS in reviewing the 2016 Pacific Northwest climate, “unusually hot April temperatures encouraged substantial pre-training growth, and may result in some alpha varieties yielding below average. Temperatures were more normal in June and July. Water supplies are adequate.”
Last month the International Hop Growers Convention (IHGC) released a 2016 world hop crop projection of 221.7 million pounds, 15.7 percent higher than 2015 production.
While some are rejoicing at the yet-again large increase and waiting with bated breath for Harvest 2016, many in the hop industry are celebrating cautiously. IHGC experts last month urged caution as further expansion is considered, to avoid surplus production. The hop market will always remain cyclical, but time frames are the unknown variable.
For brewing years 2016 and 2017, global beer output is expected to decline 2 to 3 percent. Only strong growth in the craft beer segment will offset these losses. According to a recent release from Brauwelt International, American craft beer production volume increased 8 percent during the first half of 2016.
“We have seen the downside of this market before due to oversupply,” said Ann George, Executive Director, Hop Growers of America. “While we see a clear need, thanks to long shelf life, cost and long-term commitment of growing hops, we encourage responsible contracting to ensure a stable market in terms of price and availability.”