Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Problems with the hops crop: the latest word

David Edgar, one of the earliest members of the Association of Brewers (now the Brewers Association), is, among other things, a rep for HopUnion, Ralph Olson's hop company. He posted the following on the BA Brewers Forum this morning, and gave me permission to copy it here. It's pretty much self-explanatory.
(David writes:)Ralph Olson asked me to post to the Forum to help clarify some of the rumors that have been circulating. Following are my notes from a conversation a few minutes ago with Ralph.

"During the past week the hop industry has seen two fires in the US. Both were kiln fires at hop growers facilities. In both cases only the kilns were affected and the picking machines were left intact. However the structural damage to the growers' facilities would have to be considered major; and there were some hops lost.

There have been rumors of warehouse fires. As of this moment in time there has been no warehouse fire. However, harvest is still underway and everyone is still at a heightened alert status, because this is the time of year for spontaneous combustion.

On a larger note, the world hop supply has been very tight and appears to be getting tighter by the day as the crop comes in smaller and smaller than what was anticipated, worldwide. Because of the world shortage we have temporarily held up on sales until we know for sure what is coming in. And yes, prices are going into the stratosphere, however very little is to be found even at these high prices. We have been overwhelmed with requests.

There will be hops available, however you must keep in mind that it may not be the hop that you normally use. I have been talking about a shortage in the making for the last couple of years. Even though I have stated this, I still am taken aback at how great this shortage appears to be. I also see the potential for this to last for a few years, as so many acres have been pulled out, around the world, due to poor prices in the past."

Which about covers it.

12 comments:

roan22 said...

NOOOO not again!!! Damn it if hops spontaneously combust, its time for science and technology to get involved and event something to fix this. I'm calling the Science Channel right now!

Not enough ingrediants to meet the demand, sounds similar to something I said on that other STAG post.

Lew Bryson said...

Hops do spontaneously combust; it's all them oils and resins in a tightly wadded bale. Ever seen dried citrus peels burn? Very hot, jets of blue flame. Same kind of thing.

But like I said on the other post, it's not so much a demand issue as a supply issue. Farmers were not growing hops because the demand just wasn't there. They ripped them out, there were problems with the remaining crops, and demand went up: perfect storm. Gonna be a rough couple of years. Better start drinking bock, babe!

Anonymous said...

This is a commodity boom-bust story that's older than time. Not the end of the world.

Hops and beer will be marginally more expensive for certain margins, but most of us probably won't notice. Untwist your collective panties.

Lew Bryson said...

Yes, Anony, that's pretty much why I posted it: real information to chase out rumor. But if you actually read what Ralph said (and what others have been saying for a few months now), some hops are just not going to be available, at any price, for people who are not already locked in with contracts. That's going to cause shifts in beer formulations. Not to the point where people will have to start drinking bock instead of IPA, as I joked to Rebecca, but more than just marginal differences in price. Is it the end of the world? Of course not. Is it of interest to the beer enthusiast? Sure.

Rick Sellers said...

Thanks Lew - now I wish I had a nice bock in my fridge...

roan22 said...

I'm gonna invent my own damn fireproof hop, and then sell it back to y'all for triple the price it cost me, you'll see! LOL obviously I am just kidding.

BuckSpin said...

Imperial Wee Heavies, here we come!!! Yippee!!!

Dave said...

With the impending shortage, it's a wonder to me that so many brewers are making wet hop beers since they require so many more hops.

Stonch said...

Perhaps the US will finally discover true, quality session beers! Just think of it - milds, mellow bitters . . . when the hops come back you might not even want so many anymore!

Jason said...

Oh well. Hoppy beers really got me interested in the craft beer scene to begin with, but my beer range has been steadily expanding. Time to turn to some old ales!

Anonymous said...

The down side is most beers use hops, or hop products. With the price increase of the hops, as well as the decrease in the amounts we can expect beer prices to increase and small brewery profits to decrease. Even if it is a small beer, and the brewer can not get the hops... then you get the picture. It is going to be a bumpy few years coming up for all of us!

Lew Bryson said...

Well, yeah, Anony, but it's a matter of degree! A double IPA or even an IPA uses a lot more hops than a bitter. Still, I suspect the malt prices are going to affect things even more than the hops.