Monday, August 20, 2007

The High Cost of Hops

An obsession with hops is something that seems to go hand in hand with the discovery of craft beer for many people. That tangy, bitter bite provided by the hops in a well done American style Pale Ale or IPA can be a real eye-opener for someone used to the typical watered down pilsners foisted on most of the population.

The US produces roughly a quarter of the world's hops, and nearly 75% of those come from the Yakima Valley in Washington state. Last fall, spontaneous combustion caused a massive warehouse fire that destroyed as much as 4% of the 2006 US hop crop. That incident, combined with last year's unusually poor growing season in Europe, has contributed to prices for some varieties of hops that are as much as 20% higher than a year ago. This has caused some brewers to tweak the hop varieties used in some recipes and delay the release of some beers. It has probably played a part in increased prices for some craft beers already, and some fear that the long term trend toward higher priced hops may even affect the big boys at Bud, Miller and Coors in future years - though obviously not nearly to the same degree.

The verdict is still out on the 2007 hop harvest in both the US and Europe, but here's hoping for a bumper crop. This Washington Post article by Greg Kitsock gives a nice account of what's hoppening (sorry, we're couldn't resist the urge any longer), as well as some interesting tidbits on the types of hops used in several beers and the qualities those hops impart. It even includes a throwaway global warming scare!

1 comment:

Bill said...

There is not a more chilling example of the effects of global warming.