There's actually a lot of factors. If you google "hops global shortage"
you'll come up with tons of articles on it. Basically in a nutshell a
lot of issues collided all at once. There's always been a fairly large
backlog of hop extract available for bittering (only bittering, you have
to use raw hops for flavoring and aroma) as well as raw hop bales in
storage over the last several years which has driven prices down.
Consequently farmers have ripped out hop fields so the acreage is down.
The surplus that has been in storage has been going away and now it's
pretty much all gone and the basic isomerized extract that a lot of the
surplus lower quality hops crop gets turned into is pretty much gone.
That coupled with massive crop losses on the existing crops in both the
US (hop storage facility fires wiped out a good chunk) and Europe (bad
weather destroyed a large chunk of the crop) over the last year or two
has resulted in a huge global crunch. It takes about 2 years to get a
hop field up to production so farmers are replanting now, but it will
take a bit to get production back up.
In addition, brewers are paying farmers for the alpha acid percentage
(the bittering compound in the hops) and not for raw weight of the hops.
Therefore the farmers are growing high alpha acid varieties like
Chinook, Magnum, Centennial, etc. because they'll make lots more money
per acreage. These run 9-14% alpha acid, where the distinctive
flavoring hops like Goldings, Fuggles, etc run down around 4 to 5%. You
can see how they make double to triple the price per acreage. Those
high alpha acid hops are great for bittering but are not so great for
flavoring. A lot of the really nice flavor and aroma hops are just not
being grown or replanted anymore.
It's a bad time for the brewing industry right now. Smaller craft
brewers are going out of business because they just flat can't buy the
hops. Boston Beer company (makes sam adams) did a great thing... they
had 20,000 lbs or so of extra hops that they didn't need so they put
them up for sale to other micro and craft brewers *only* at $5 or so a
pound (what they paid for them via contract) instead of the $15 or $20 a
lb they could have easily gotten on the open market. I don't normally
drink Sam Adams but I went out and bought a sixer just to say "thank
you" to the company for a real high class move like that.
Barley prices are through the roof because of weather wiping out barley
crops and should come down next year (hopefully). Hops will take quite
a bit to recover though. I used to pay $40 per 50 lb sack for imported
floor malted Maris Otter British barley and about $25 for a sack of
domestic great western 2-row malted barley. Those prices have close to
I have won quite a few medals for my brewing, but I just can't brew the
same recipes anymore (I formulate all my own recipes) because I can't
afford to use the high quality ingredients that I normally use. Once my
stock is depleted I'm screwed until the prices restabilize and hops
become available again. I am glad I am in the habit of buying bulk,
because I managed to pick up quite a bit of stuff just before the prices
went through the roof on everything. As for hops, I can't even get the
hops I normally use at any price. Once my bulk stock is gone, I'm screwed.
-- Gary F.
Brian Kamnetz wrote:
Homeroast mailing list
Homeroasthttp://www.homeroasting.com/gallery/main.php?g2_itemIdx20">http://lists.sweetmariascoffee.com/listinfo.cgi/homeroast-sweetmariascoffee.comHomeroast community pictures 9upload yours!) :http://www.homeroasting.com/gallery/main.php?g2_itemIdx20