With U.S. hop production up 11 percent over 2014 and prices reaching new highs, 2015 was a great year to be a hop grower, and those growers have Americans’ love of craft beer to thank.
The increased popularity of craft brews drove both production growth and many growers’ transition to planting higher-value aroma hops, according to the Capital Press.
Hops are used primarily as a flavoring and balancing agent in beer. With U.S. breweries hitting a record high 4,144 in 2015, a number that’s growing by the day, it’s no wonder that hops are in high demand. Craft breweries have projected 20 percent annual growth for the next five years.
Nearly 75 percent of U.S. hops are grown in Washington state. The remaining 25 percent comes from Idaho and Oregon. Together, the three states produce roughly a third of the global supply of hops.
All three Pacific Northwest states increased hop production this year, with Idaho harvesting its biggest crop since 1944 and Washington producing its highest hop crop since 1915, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. This, despite an early season heat wave and lower than average winter snowpack level, which affect irrigation.
“Considering those challenges and the amount of first-year plants in the ground, which have smaller yield, we are pleased with the final count and looking forward to next year,” Ann George, executive director of Hop Growers of America, told the Capital Press. She said hop acreage is expected to continue growing in the Pacific Northwest, even though it has increased by 48 percent in the last three years.
The average price per pound for hops reached a record high $4.38 per pound in 2015, compared to $3.67 last year and $3.35 in 2013. George said craft breweries’ demand for higher-value aroma varieties of hops “has challenged the industry to continue to expand production at an equivalent rate.”
Meanwhile, European hop producers had a tough year. Drought dropped production levels by 24 percent from 2014.
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