Tuesday, October 23, 2007

more on hops cost, shortage

There has been a lot of bandwidth expended recently on screeds about hops and their increasing dearness. For instance, Greg Kitsock, the editor of the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News and the twice-monthly beer columnist for the Washington Post, two weeks ago wrote this piece on the shortage of hops:

Hops skip into the shortage zone, jump in price

The upshot is this. The confluence of bad weatherDave Pyle of Hop Union in Europe, a hop fire in the US, lower yields worldwide, and decreasing acreage, has created a shortage of hops and a consequent increase in the price of hops.

Larger breweries tend to lock up hop contracts several years out. Smaller breweries and brewpubs don't, and are experiencing difficulty in getting hop varietals they want, and the quantities of hops they need.

Sometimes overlooked in this calculus is the exchange rate. The decreasing value of the US dollar has made US hops and barley malt financially appealing to overseas breweries. When they buy more, smaller breweries here in the US find less for themselves.

I am sanguine about the end to this problem in the next few years, but the uncertainty of current weather patterns might continue to cause low hop harvests. We'll see.

Hops haven't disappeared. They are, however, more expensive, and less plentiful. Brewers may need to put a bit more business acumen into the creation of their recipes.

More here.

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