15th May, 2014 by Lauren Eads
Hop growers are struggling to keep up with demand as the thirst for craft beer continues, prompting fears that supplies of the crucial ingredient could run dry.
Craft breweries are now opening faster than farmers can grow hops in the US, as reported by vox.com, with the price of hops doubling in the US over the last 10 years to $10 per pound as demand has surged.
Figures from the Brewer’s Association show that in 2013 a total of 2,822 breweries were operating in the US, the country’s highest total since the 1870s.
The US craft beer market now holds an 7% share of the total beer market growing 18% by volume and 20% by value in 2013, with brewers selling an estimated 15.6 million barrels of beer.
Steve Dresler, brewmaster at Sierra Nevada told the Financial Times that craft beer brewers in the US could start to feel the crunch as early as next year.
And while the price of European hops has not risen in the same way as in the US, many UK craft brewers insist of American crops, which will add to problems with supply, Alison Capper of the British Hops Association told the BBC.
Even supply of hops grown in the UK could be tight, if last year’s weather problems are repeated, with Capper adding that the 2014 crop is “pretty much sold out”.
Part of the problem is demand for newly established “aroma” hop varieties as tastes shift away from the bland, but high-yield alpha hops, and the fact that craft brewers use roughly six times more hops than beers produced by large corporate brewers.
Ann George, director of Hop Growers of America, told vox.com that by next year hop acreage will be planted 60/40 in favour of aroma varieties, with the swing previously being 70/30 against aroma varieties.
She said: “It will be tight. There are more brewers in the marketplace, more people want hops and growers can only expand so quickly,” adding that smaller brewers will need to plan ahead to avoid missing out on supply.